As the Black Lives Matter movement continues to bring national attention to systemic, racist state violence and police shootings of unarmed African Americans, we remember the the day that New York Police Department officers killed Amadou Diallo.
Diallo died on February 4, 1999, seventeen years ago today. An immigrant from Guinea, he was approached by four plainclothes officers outside of his Bronx home who said he matched the description of a serial rape suspect. The officers—who said they thought Diallo was reaching for a gun when the unarmed man was just reaching for his wallet—fired upon him a total of 41 times, striking him with 19 bullets. The officers were indicted on charges of murder and reckless endangerment—all of which were cleared after their trial was moved from the Bronx to Albany. One of the involved officers, Kenneth Boss, was even promoted to sargeant last December.
At the time, Diallo’s killing prompted protests, an internal review into law enforcement’s use of full metal jacket-style bullets and musical tributes from the likes of Wyclef Jean and Bruce Springsteen.
Since then, Diallo’s mother, Kadiatou Diallo, has been a noted figure in the fight against police brutality. She stood alongside the families of Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Mike Brown and others killed by police to protest that violence and uplift #BlackLivesMatter. She also serves as the president of the Amadou Diallo Foundation, which supports education programs, has already provided scholarships to 27 youths and is set to hold its first benefit dinner tonight in Harlem. As she told the New York Daily News yesterday (February 3), “[My son] lived a short life—23 years—but his legacy will endure and help others.”