No federal prosecution for Diallo officers
Diallo was unarmed when he was shot by police
NEW YORK (CNN) -- The U.S. Justice Department will not pursue federal civil rights charges against four white New York City police officers who fatally shot an unarmed black man two years ago.
The police officers had been acquitted a year ago of state murder charges after firing 41 shots at West African immigrant Amadou Diallo, hitting him 19 times as he stood in the vestibule of his Bronx home. They said they thought he was pulling a gun, which turned out to be a wallet.
In a statement, acting Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said prosecutors would not press charges because they "could not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the officers willfully deprived Mr. Diallo of his constitutional right to be free from the use of unreasonable force." To win a federal indictment, prosecutors would need to have shown evidence that the accused violated Diallo's civil rights.
The officers remain on the force, and have not at this point faced any disciplinary charges. The Diallo family has sought disciplinary action against the officers. It also has filed a $61 million civil lawsuit against the city.
"I can say that this is unfortunate but I can tell you we will still go on, we will not give up," Kadiatou Diallo, the slain man's mother said after hearing the news from U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White in a face-to-face meeting today. "Amadou's life was not taken in vain."
The shooting death of her son prompted large demonstrations and arrests in New York City, where a diverse coalition of religious leaders, activists and politicians accused police of engaging in racial profiling.
The officers -- Kenneth Boss, Sean Carroll, Edward McMellon and Richard Murphy -- were members of the Police Department's elite Street Crimes Unit.
The Street Crimes Unit has been credited with reducing crime and seizing hundreds of illegal weapons, but criticized for its aggressive tactics. It was reorganized after Diallo's death. Last year, the Justice Department began investigating whether the New York police had problems with racial profiling.
Both Holder and White expressed sympathy for Diallo. "Mr. Diallo, an unarmed individual, who committed no crime and no act of aggression, unnecessarily lost his life," the Justice Department statement said. They said nothing about whether there will be further federal action involving New York police.
The four plain-clothed officers had been cruising along a Bronx street in an unmarked car in February, 1999 when they spotted Diallo and decided to question him.
At the state trial, the officers said they were looking for a serial rapist and panicked when Diallo allegedly ran from them and appeared to pull out a gun. But there was no gun and Diallo was shot to death on his doorstep.
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