Today Marks 25 Years Since Unarmed Black Man Amadou Diallo Was Killed By 4 NYPD Officers

Amadou Diallo was shot and killed by four officers from the NYPD's Street Crime Unit on Feb. 4, 1999, at 12:44 a.m. while he was entering his apartment building

<p>Richard Harbus/Getty</p> Amadou Diallo

Richard Harbus/Getty

Amadou Diallo

Amadou Diallo was only 23 years old when he was shot at 41 times by four White plainclothes NYPD police officers on Feb. 4, 1999 while he was walking into his Bronx apartment building. He was stuck 19 times and died within seconds of the gunfire.

Diallo was unarmed and had no criminal record.

Originally from Guinea, Diallo made a living as a street vendor selling socks and CDs, according to 1999 reporting by PEOPLE, and he was saving the money he made to attend school. He had been living in the U.S. since immigrating in 1997 and spoke with his parents days before his death about his desire to attend college.

His death sparked public outrage and protests, putting a spotlight on police brutality against people of color. During the protests that followed, numerous public figures were arrested, including Rev. Jesse Jackson and Former United States Representative Charles Rangel, who blocked the police headquarters entrance in protest.

Officers Sean Carroll, then 36, Edward McMellon, then 26, Kenneth Boss, then 27, and Richard Murphy, then 26, were arrested and charged with second-degree murder in connection with Diallo's death.

The officers were members of the NYPD's Street Crime Unit (SCU) and on the night Diallo was killed, they were told to search for a serial rapist in the Bronx, who was described as Black. According to PEOPLE's 1999 reporting, the lawyers for the officers claimed that Diallo didn't respond to their questioning and reached in his back pocket, which made them believe he was reaching for a gun. Carroll yelled, "Gun!" and all four officers opened fire on Diallo. The lawyers claimed Carroll then attempted CPR and realized Diallo was unarmed with only his wallet in his pocket.

Diallo's parents, Saikou Diallo and Kadiatou Diallo, traveled from Guinea to New York City after learning of their son's killing. In the months following his death, the SCU officers were ordered to wear uniforms.

On February 25, 2000, the four officers were found not guilty of all charges.

Former Mayor David N. Dinkins spoke out against the verdict, saying "This will send the wrong message to those members of the Street Crime Unit who walk around saying, "We own the night,' " a reference to the SCU's self-styled slogan, The New York Times reported in 2000.

Saikou called the not guilty verdicts the "second killing" of his son, the Times reported.

The following year, the Department of Justice declined to pursue federal criminal civil rights charges against the officers on the grounds that the DOJ "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."

<p>Andrew Holbrooke/Getty</p> Demonstrators protesting the killing of Amadou Diallo

Andrew Holbrooke/Getty

Demonstrators protesting the killing of Amadou Diallo

In Jan. 2004, Diallo's family received a $3 million settlement after filing a civil rights lawsuit against New York City and the officers, the Times reported. In the settlement, the department did not admit any wrongdoing. The SCU was disbanded in 2002.

According to the Times, the family initially sought $20 million in compensatory damages and $41 million in punitive damages. At the time of the 2004 report, McMellon and Murphy were working for the fire department and Boss and Carroll were still with the NYPD. In 2019, Boss retired from the department, The Daily News of Newburyport reported.

Kadiatou told NY1 in 2019 that her son "believed in America" and "dreamed of succeeding here."

"If he was alive today, I know he would be a parent, he would be an entrepreneur, he would be helping people," she added.

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In 2021, Kadiatou spoke with PIX 11 after Derek Chauvin was convicted of murdering George Floyd in Minneapolis.

“There’s no time for celebration,” Kadiatou told the outlet. “There’s time for work. To put in the work that needed to be done, so we can stop seeing these cases time and time again.”

<p>David Handschuh/NY Daily News Archive/Getty</p> Amadou Diallo's parents Saikou and Kadiatou Diallo

David Handschuh/NY Daily News Archive/Getty

Amadou Diallo's parents Saikou and Kadiatou Diallo

The Amadou Diallo Foundation was founded by Kadiatou in 2001. According to the foundation, its mission is to promote "racial equality by implementing education programs designed to identify, nurture, and support promising students—especially those of African descent—who are transitioning from high school to college."

The foundation, which provides scholarship aid to incoming college students, was created in Diallo's memory and in part because of the last words he ever spoke to his mother: "Mom, I'm going to college."

1999 reporting by Patrick Rogers and Julia Campbell contributed to this story

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