“We Still Own The Night”
On February 4th 1999 Amadou Diallo was shot in the vestibule of his apartment building at 1157 Wheeler Avenue in the Soundview section of the Bronx, New York. 41 shots were fired by 4 undercover police officers, 19 of the shots hitting their target. An autopsy later showed that 15 of the bullets hit Diallo in the back or sides. One of these entered through the bottom of his right foot. Four officers were on patrol looking for a rapist. They saw Diallo standing at the door of his apartment building ‘looking suspicious”. When they approached he appeared to reach into his pocket. The barrage of bullets followed, and the officers found a wallet in the dead man’s hand.
The officers- Sean Carroll, Edward McMellon, Richard Murphy and Kenneth Boss were members of the New York City’s elite Street Crime Unit (SCU). The SCU’s motto was “We Own The Night”. They belonged to no precinct or borough but patrolled the entire city with the freedom to search and arrest. Frequently the SCU patrolled the city’s poorest neighborhoods, stopping and searching mostly African-Americans and Hispanics. In 1997 and 98 45,000 men were frisked, and 9,000 arrests were made. Over 2000 weapons were taken off the street. Murder rates plummeted, but a high social cost was paid.
Amadou Diallo was born in Liberia on September 2, 1975. The oldest of 4 children, he was raised in Liberia, Guinea, Togo and Thailand. He spoke 5 languages, worked and studied throughout the world. He came to the United States in order to further his education. His dream was to study computer science and one day return to his family in Africa. While saving money for school he worked in a Manhattan convenience store. A devout Muslim, he prayed five times daily.
The officers were found not guilty of 24 charges brought against them, which ranged from reckless endangerment to second degree murder. An NYPD investigative panel recommended that the four officers should not be disciplined, because they’d acted within guidelines. The panel did recommended the officers “undergo retraining in tactics and firearms use”. The police commissioner agreed with the panel’s recommendation that the officers not be disciplined, but said they would not undergo any retraining.
Two of the officers have applied for jobs as firefighters.
Diallo’s family was awarded $3million in a lawsuit against the city of New York.
Time magazine, March 6, 2000, vol. 155 no. 9
My Heart Will Cross This Ocean Kadiatou Diallo and Craig Wolf. One World/Ballantine Books 2003
proceeds from the sale of this painting will be donated to the Amadou Diallo foundation