By Sheryl Estrada
Four New York City police officers in plainclothes fired 41 shots at 22-year-old Guinean immigrant Amadou Diallo in the vestibule of his apartment in Bronx, N.Y., on Feb. 4, 1999. Nineteen of the bullets hit him, and Diallo was killed.
The officers, Sean Carroll, Richard Murphy, Edward McMellon and Kenneth Boss, members of the now defunct Street Crime Unit, said they thought he was a rape suspect and fired when Carroll yelled Diallo had a gun. But he was innocent. Diallo was only reaching into his jacket for his wallet. All four men were charged with second-degree murder and ultimately acquitted in February 2000 in Albany, N.Y., approximately 150 miles away from the Bronx.
Boss, now 44, who fired five of the shots at Diallo, was promoted to the rank of sergeant on Thursday. He is the only one of the four officers charged in Diallo’s death who remains with the NYPD. Boss currently serves with the department’s aviation unit. Until 2012, he was disarmed and reassigned to desk duty.
His promotion and raise were mandated by police policy and not subject to review by top department officials, according to the New York Daily News.
The Diallo family reached a $3 million settlement in 2004. Since her son’s death, Kadiatou Diallo has become a social activist and an ardent public speaker. She was not pleased with Boss’ promotion.
NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton (left) shakes hand with NYPD officer Kenneth Boss (right) who was promoted to sergeant during a ceremony on Thursday. Photo credit: Twitter.
“You have so many police officers out there who deserve to be promoted, and this man is being promoted” she said in an interview.
“For doing what Killing my son I don’t have any hatred or revenge in my heart, but my life was changed forever that day. This is a stab in the heart.”
Two years prior to Diallo’s death, on Oct. 31, 1997, Boss shot and killed 22-year-old Patrick Bailey, a Black man, Wall Street clerk and amateur DJ, outside his home in Brooklyn. Family attorneys said that Boss allowed Bailey to bleed to death.
According to a Village Voice article published in 1999, police said Bailey “was wielding a sawed-off shotgun when Boss and his partners chased him into his home. They said that upon entering, the officers encountered Bailey sitting on the steps pointing the gun at them.” However, the gun was empty.
The article states, “As the investigation unfolded, police, after first conceding that the shotgun was empty and could not be fired, then claimed that the officers had opened fire because they believed that Bailey was holding a woman hostage.”
Boss, a Marine reservist who did a tour in Iraq, said he was ”fearful for his own safety because he was standing too close to someone who was armed with a shotgun.”
After an investigation, former Brooklyn District Attorney Charles J. Hynes cleared Boss of all charges.
Following the death of Diallo, New York City erupted with protests and prayer vigils. Fifteen years later, similar protests occurred after the grand jury verdict regarding the police-related death of Eric Garner in Staten Island in 2014.
High profile cases, such as Garner’s death from an illegal chokehold, and proof that NYPD’s Stop and Frisk and Broken Windows disproportionately targeted Blacks and Latinos have caused Commissioner Bill Bratton to address years of complaints of police brutality against minorities.
“The police commissioner is talking about racial healing and positive changes, and this is what they’re doing” Diallo said on Wednesday.
In February, Bratton spoke during a Black History Month at The Greater Allen A.M.E. Cathedral of New York in Queens. He said although police departments have played a pivotal role in maintaining civil rights and freedom of speech, they also have contributed negatively to the history of Blacks in the U.S.
In early December 2014, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio made comments on race and police relations, including saying he and his wife “had to literally train” their son Dante on how to handle encounters with police. His comments caused a rift between him and the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association. Members of the NYPD turned their backs to de Blasio at the funerals of murdered NYPD detectives Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos.
Since then de Blasio and Bratton were faced with a public relations nightmare when NYPD officer James Frascatore used brutal force against innocent former tennis star James Blake in September.
“It’s under their leadership, Mayor de Blasio and the commissioner, so they are responsible,” Diallo said of Boss’ promotion. “This is how I feel, from my heart, that nothing has changed despite their talk. There’s nothing that proves that anything is different.”