“Diallo Diallo” was a catchy song by Wyclef Jean an American rapper of Haitian descent, but the story in Wyclef’s song, was a defining moment in US history.
A Guinean immigrant called Amadou Diallo who moved to Manhattan, NY, was best known for the unfortunate incident which took his life. He was shot 41 times in front of his house on the morning of February 4, 1999.
On that morning, four plainclothes New York City Police officers were patrolling the neighbourhood 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 nonetheless 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.
Neighbours 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 catalysed 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 to death of Diallo were indicted and trial began 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.