Amadou Diallo (1976-1999)

Amadou Diallo, 1992
Courtesy The Dallas Weekly, Fair use image

Amadou Diallo was a Guinean immigrant who lived in Manhattan, New York, and is unfortunately best known for being killed by New York City police after he was fired upon forty-one times outside his place of residence. Diallo was born on September 2, 1976, in Liberia to his Guinean parents, Saikou Diallo and Kadiatou Diallo, and was the eldest of their four children. His parents’ business of exporting gemstones between Africa and Asia gave Amadou the opportunity to study in various countries, one of which was Thailand. Diallo studied both computer engineering and English. The latter led him to take an interest in American culture.

After the divorce of Diallo’s parents in 1989, he lived in Bangkok, Thailand, with his mother. He later left Bangkok for Guinea because he wanted to seek a blessing from his elders in order to pursue his dream of living in America and earning a college education. Diallo eventually received the blessing and traveled to the United States. In 1997 he arrived in New York City and went to work as bicycle messenger. He later worked as a street peddler selling gloves, socks, and videos.

On the early morning of February 4, 1999, four plainclothes New York City police officers were patrolling the neighborhood in which Diallo lived in the hopes of uncovering evidence that would lead to the arrest of a serial rapist who lived in the area. At around 12:40 a.m., the four officers exited their vehicle and approached Diallo while he was in the vestibule of his building. While it is unclear if they identified themselves as police officers, they nontheless sought to question Diallo who in turn did not respond to their request but instead reached into his back pocket. Upon seeing the object that was removed, one of the officers yelled “gun,” and all four officers began to shoot at Diallo. A total of forty-one shots were fired from the officers’ weapons. Nineteen shots hit Diallo’s body, and he was killed instantly. Neighbors called 911 after the shooting, and the attending officers called in the incident on their radios. Once other officers arrived on the scene, an investigation began. It was discovered that there was no gun and all that was lying next to Diallo’s body were a pager and a wallet.

Diallo was buried in Guinea where thousands of his fellow countrymen attended his funeral. The shooting catalyzed protests in the city of New York because many believed the officers had acted without restraint. The four officers who were responsible for the shooting death of Diallo were indicted and began trial on February 2, 2000. On February 25, 2000, all four of the officers were acquitted. In April of the same year, Diallo’s family sued the city of New York and the officers responsible for $61 million. The family would later settle for $3 million dollars. Some of the money was used to create the Amadou Diallo Foundation and scholarship fund in 2005. The Diallo killing would be the first of a series of high-profile police shoots that would eventually spark the Black Lives Matter movement.