Amadou Diallo/NYPD Trial: 2000 - Unarmed And Law Abiding, "every Police Officer's Nightmare", "gun! He's Got A Gun!"
Defendants: Kenneth Boss, Sean Carroll, Edward McMellon, and Richard Murphy
Crime Charged: Murder
Chief Defense Lawyers: Boss: Steven Brounstein and Ben Herzweig; Carroll: Bennett Epstein, Marvin Kornberg, and John Patten; McMellon: Stephen Worth; Murphy: James Culleton
Chief Prosecutors: Robert T. Johnson, Donald Levin, and Eric Warner
Judge: Joseph Teresi
Place: Albany, New York
Dates of Trial: February 2-25, 2000
Verdict: Not guilty
SIGNIFICANCE: This case focused world attention on the issue of racial profiling, as the tragic killing of an unarmed African immigrant by four plainclothes police officers became the symbol of wrongful suspicion of an entire ethnic group by cops. Experts noted that the case mirrored the minority community's resentment of aggressive police tactics designed to reduce crime even at the expense of civil liberties. The verdict further aggravated the situation, with police brutality becoming a major political issue in New York City and elsewhere.
On the evening of February 4, 1999, four plainclothes officers of the New York City Police Department's (NYPD's) Street Crime Unit were patrolling in an unmarked car in the Bronx. Their elite 438-member squad, whose motto was "We Own the Night," boasted a record of 2,500 guns removed from the streets since 1997—far more than any unit their size.
The four—Kenneth Boss, 27; Sean Carroll, 35; Edward McMellon, 26; and Richard Murphy, also 26—were looking for a suspect alleged to have committed rapes, robberies, and murder. The officers wore jeans, sweaters, and sneakers or boots, and bullet-proof vests. Two carried more than one gun.
The officers drove south on Wheeler Avenue. At number 1157, they saw a man lingering in the doorway. They stopped. Guns drawn, McMellon and Carroll crossed the sidewalk and mounted the steps. Murphy stood back on the sidewalk. Boss crouched behind a parked car.
Suddenly, shots were fired. McMellon fell backward off the steps. Carroll also fell off the steps. Both emptied their 16-bullet magazines. Murphy fired four times. Boss, five.
The accosted man lay face up in the vestibule, his black wallet beside him. A fatal shot had perforated his aorta. Others had punctured his spinal cord, lungs, liver, spleen, kidney, and intestines. Eleven bullets pierced his legs.
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