Yero and Seikou Bah at the rally. Photo: Mouhamed Kaba
Supporters Claim Immigrant was ‘Unarmed’
Family and supporters of a Guinean immigrant killed by police last September after his mother called 911 seeking medical attention for the man held a rally Monday and called for the indictment of the officers involved in the shooting.
Lawyers for the family say a Grand Jury will weigh whether there is a case against the officers in May.
On September 25 at around 6PM Hawa Bah called 911 to ask that an ambulance be sent for her 28-year old son Mohammed Bah who had emotional problems. According to a lawyer representing the family, 40 minutes later, Bah was dead, shot 10 times by police officers, he says.
When police arrived at the scene, on West 120 Street and Morningside Avenue, Bah was inside his apartment. The police then cleared the building and, according to one of the family’s lawyers, broke into the apartment. “It wasn’t a crime until they made it one,” said the lawyer, Randolph M. McLaughlin. “They broke down the door and took his life. We need better trained police officers.”
At the time of the shooting, a police spokesman told The New York Daily News that Bah had attacked two of six emergency service officers after they ordered him to drop a 13-inch knife. Officers fired two Taser guns and shot a rubber bullet at Bah after he lunged toward them with the kitchen knife, and stabbed two officers, the spokesman, Paul Browne said. The officers involved were taken to New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center, and one was treated for a stab wound to his left arm, Browne said, at the time.
McLaughlin disputes the police’s version and compares the Bah case to the shooting of Eleanor Bumpers, on October 29, 1984 after police tried to forcefully evict the emotionally disturbed 66-year old African American woman who also had arthritis and other health problems.
Bumpers had locked herself inside her Bronx apartment. Police broke in and she was shot twice by a 12-gauge shotgun by officer Steven Sullivan. The officer was later acquitted on manslaughter charges after a bench trial. Police at the time also said Bumpers attacked officers with a knife. After the Bumpers case, new police procedures were put in place, including for officers to work with family members of emotionally disturbed individuals.
“Apparently we’ve learned nothing from the Eleanor Bumpers case. We are calling for an indictment of these officers who used excessive force and killed this man,” McLaughlin said. Officers had rejected Hawa Bah’s plea that she be allowed to speak with her son through the door from outside his apartment, the lawyers say.
The New York Police Department did not respond to a request for comment from The Black Star News, including to one submitted in writing as requested yesterday evening.
Bah’s family also reject the police’s account. Mohamed Yero Bah, one of the brothers, who shares the same first name with his deceased sibling says his brother would never charge people with a knife. “It’s not like him,” Yero Bah, who lives in New York says, speaking at the rally attended by more than 40 people, in chilly afternoon weather. “He’s not violent. Clean record. And as for a knife, who doesn’t have a kitchen knife in an apartment?”
“We want justice for our brother,” adds, another brother, Seikou Bah, who lives in Paris and traveled to New York for the rally. He says his brother attended college and drove a cab part-time for extra cash.
The Manhattan DA’s office has been investigating the case.
“We hope that they will do a good job,” Franciscus L. Diaba, a second lawyer representing the family, said referring to the DA’s investigation of the shooting. “Every week we talk with them. So far the investigation has been fair.”
Diaba said what bothered him most about the case was that Hawa Bah called 911 seeking help for her son and “forty minutes later, he was dead.”
“If he had lived on Park Avenue would he have been killed?” he added. “It makes me afraid to call 911.”
Both lawyers said the New York Police Department has refused to provide details of the incident, including how many shots were fired total and the number of officers involved and their names. The lawyers have filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) demanding these details. “We want to know, and we want the public to know what happened,” says McLaughlin.
Bah sustained eight gun shot wounds, including one in the head and three on the torso, and others on the left shoulder, Ellen Borakove, spokesperson at the Medical Examiner’s Office said. Borakove wouldn’t comment on speculation that the autopsy report indicated some of the shots were fired when Bah was already prone and laying flat. Seven bullets were recovered, she said.
A person close to the family says Bah wasn’t taken to the hospital for at least one hour after he was shot by police. This person says Bah lay on the floor of his apartment for such a long time that his blood seeped through the floor.