The Black Lives Matter Movement has grown into the largest black-led protest campaign since the 1960s. While specific goals and tactics vary by city and state, overall the movement seeks to bring attention to police violence against African Americans and in particular the use of deadly force against mostly unarmed civilians. While the issue of police brutality and unnecessary deadly force has been a focus point of black anger and frustration through much of the 19th and all of the 20th centuries, the violent death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin at the hands of neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman in 2012 galvanized various efforts into a single national movement.
This page begins with an article by Professor Herb Ruffin describing the founding (and founders) of the movement. The entries that follow identify incidents both before and after 2013 which have inspired the activism of Black Lives Matter members and supporters.
Brothers Forum understands this is an incomplete list. We are aware of other names that should be included and sadly we are constantly adding profiles because the violence that causes this unnecessary loss of life continues to this day. We ask your help in identifying and writing profiles of these and other individuals not yet covered. If you are interested in contributing to this list, please contact us at RayAustin@brothersforum.org
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Almost immediately, local African American leaders began asking questions. Although an autopsy performed by King County Coroner Otto Mittlestadt found “several internal head injuries, a broken nose, and several bruises” and no evidence that Lawson was intoxicated, the coroner cleared the three officers of any wrongdoing. Days later, a delegation led by Rev. Fred Hughes, pastor at First AME Church; Rev. T.M. Davis, pastor at Mt. Zion Baptist Church; and newspaper publisher John O. Lewis met with Police Chief William Sears. In addition, Seattle Urban League executive secretary Joseph Sylvester Jackson organized a committee of community representatives to hold “protest meetings” with mayor-elect Arthur Langlie. Soon after, the city announced it would conduct an official investigation into Lawson’s death.
On April 8, Paschal, Stevenson, and Whalen were charged with second-degree murder in the death of Berry Lawson. They surrendered at the prosecuting attorney’s office and were held in lieu of $5,000 bail. Chief Sears suspended all three without pay and then fired them one month later. Meanwhile, Paschal, Stevenson, and Whalen made claims in the newspaper, suggesting that the real reason behind their prosecution was connected to something else. Stevenson stated, “I know the white slave interests are out to get us for our many arrests in recent “skid road” white slavery investigations. They’ve made numerous threats, but I figured it would be in the nature of physical violence—a knife in the back—but nothing like this.”
Intrigue around the case rose with the emergence of a “mystery witness.” Travis Downs was a white hairdresser who claimed he was paid $35 by Paschal, Stevenson, and Whalen and put on a train to Portland, Oregon the day Lawson died. Downs was to remain out of town while the case was being investigated, and he even produced an envelope he had received in Portland that the officers allegedly had sent; the envelope contained an additional $50. However, Sylvester Jackson persuaded Downs to return to Seattle, and he ultimately testified that he had seen the three officers beat Lawson.
On June 10, a little over two months after the death of Berry Lawson, all three officers were convicted on a lesser charge of manslaughter and sentenced to 20 years each in prison. Following the verdict, legal appeals and political maneuvering kept the decision in limbo. The three officers were temporarily released until their convictions were upheld in January 1939 by the Washington State Supreme Court which ruled, “The officers used more force than was necessary in taking Lawson into custody.” In spite of this ruling, Washington Governor Clarence D. Martin pardoned Paschal and Stevenson later that spring and Whalen in December 1939. After receiving his freedom, Whalen took responsibility for Lawson’s death.
Much of the early life of the Groveland Four is unknown. Ernest Thomas was married to Ruby Lee Jones. Charles Greenlee first arrived in Lake County, Florida in July 1949. Thomas had convinced Greenlee that he could find work in the county. Samuel Shepherd was a World War II veteran and the son of a prosperous local black farmer. Walter Irvin was also a World War II veteran.
On July 16, 1949, Thomas, Greenlee, Shepherd, and Irvin were accused of kidnapping and raping Norma Padgett and assaulting her husband Willie Padgett. According to her husband, their car broke down after the couple left a dance. Padgett claimed that the four black men stopped to offer them assistance but instead assaulted him and kidnapped his wife. After a manhunt, Greenlee, Shepherd, and Irvin were arrested and taken to Lake County jail, where they were tortured. Thomas avoided capture for a week, but he was killed by Lake County Sheriff Willis McCall.
The following day, as news spread around Lake County about the rape, a mob of more than 100 men gathered at the jail demanding that Greenlee, Shepherd, and Irvin be released to them. Sheriff McCall told the mob that the three had already been transferred to a state penitentiary, when in fact they were still in the Lake County Jail. The mob then vented its anger on the small Groveland African American community, shooting residents and setting fire to homes. Some whites, however, helped blacks escape the violence around the area. Meanwhile Greenlee, Shepherd, and Irvin were tried. Although medical evidence did not show signs of Padgett being raped, an all-white jury found the three men guilty. Shepherd and Irvin received the death penalty, while Greenlee received life in prison.
The U.S. Supreme Court later tossed out the three convictions, forcing a retrial in November 1951. As the three were being transported back to Lake County, Florida from the state penitentiary, Sheriff McCall shot and killed Shepherd and seriously wounded Irvin. Irvin’s retrial on November 13, 1952 resulted in another guilty verdict and death sentence from an all-white jury. In 1955, his sentence was reduced to life in prison by Florida Governor LeRoy Collins.
Walter Irvin was released from the state penitentiary in 1968 but died a year later from a heart attack. He was 39 years old. Charles Greenlee, the last surviving member of the Groveland Four, was released on parole in 1962 and moved to Nashville, Tennessee. He died on April 18, 2012. at 78 years old. In 2017, the state issued an apology to the families of the Greenland Four. All four men were posthumously pardoned on January 11, 2019 by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.
Robinson was born in 1947 to Johnny Brown and Martha Marie Robinson. He had a difficult upbringing and his childhood was marked by violence when his father was murdered by a neighbor. Robinson’s mother was left to take care of him and her two other children. As a child Robinson also witnessed the frequent anti-black racial violence of Birmingham itself. Fifty racially motivated bombings took place in the city between 1945 and 1963.
On September 15, 1963, Ku Klux Klan members planted a bomb at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, an African-American place of worship. Around 10:22 a.m., the bomb exploded, killing Denise McNair, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson, and Addie Mae Collins. As news of the bombing spread across the city, racial tensions ran high. Later that afternoon Robinson, who initially was to join his sister for Sunday dinner, decided instead to go with his friends to a gas station located on 26th Street. Several white teenagers drove by Robinson and his friends, yelling racial slurs and waving Confederate flags. The white teenagers then threw bottles at Robinson and his friends who retaliated by throwing rocks at their car. When the police arrived, Robinson and his friends started to run. Officer Jack Parker, who was in the backseat of the police car holding a shotgun, fired the shot that hit Robinson in the back. Johnny Robinson died before reaching the hospital.
Parker would later give two different accounts of the shooting. In the first one he claimed that he shot in the air above Robinson’s head, and in the second account he said the shotgun went off accidentally. Other witnesses disputed both accounts, claiming to have heard two shotgun shots. Two Jefferson County Grand Juries opted not to charged Officer Parker for Robinson’s death. Robinson’s family was devastated by his loss which led his mother to later spend time in a psychiatric hospital. His younger brother and sister who know little about his death learned not to speak of it.
In the months following Robinson’s death, the deaths of the Denise McNair, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson, and Addie Mae Collins at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church received far more local and national attention. The Robinson murder went virtually unnoticed until 2013 when, partly because of the rise of the Black Lives Matter Movement, he was inducted into the Birmingham’s Gallery of Distinguished Citizens fifty years after his murder. Officer Jack Parker died in 1977.
Hutton was born in Jefferson County, Arkansas, to John D. Hutton and Dolly Mae Mitchner-Hutton on April 21, 1950. He was the youngest of three children. In 1953, when Hutton was three years old, his family moved to Oakland, Californiaafter being harassed by racist vigilante groups associated with the Ku Klux Klan.
In December 1966 at age 16, Hutton met BPP founders Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale at the North Oakland Anti-Poverty Center and became the first recruit and youngest member of the BPP. Hutton stated that he joined The Party because he wanted to make a difference in his community and that he believed in The Party’s Ten-Point Program.
On May 2, 1967, Hutton participated in a demonstration organized by the BPP at the California State Capitol Building in Sacramento, to protest the Mulford Act, which would prohibit the carrying of firearms in any public place. Hutton was arrested with several other BPP members for carrying weapons into the State Capital. Hutton was again arrested on May 22, 1967 for violating an 1887 law prohibiting the carrying of firearms adjacent to a jail.
On April 6, 1968, two days after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and with riots raging across cities in United States, Hutton was traveling with Eldridge Cleaver and other BPP members in a car. The group confronted Oakland Police officers and during the confrontation, two police officers were shot. Hutton and Cleaver fled to an apartment building where they engaged in a 90-minute gun battle with the Oakland Police Department.
Ultimately, Cleaver was wounded, and Hutton voluntarily surrendered. According to Cleaver, although Hutton had stripped down to his underwear and had his hands raised in the air to prove that he was unarmed, Oakland Police shot Hutton more than 12 times, leading to his death. Police reports claimed that Hutton was attempting to run away and was wearing a trench coat and his hands were not visible. Cleaver later stated that one police officer that witnessed the shoot-out claimed that what the police did to Hutton “was first-degree murder.” And Bobby Seale has speculated that the Oakland Police shot Hutton believing that they were shooting him instead.
In the immediate aftermath of the shooting, Cleaver failed to acknowledge that the group of BPP members were actively looking to ambush the Oakland Police in response to the assassination of King, and instead claimed the police attacked them in their car. In 1980 Cleaver admitted that he and Hutton had ambushed the police before the shoot-out that killed Hutton.
Hutton’s death became a rallying cry against police brutality across the nation. His funeral held on April 12, 1968 at the Ephesian Church of God in Berkeley, California was attended by approximately 1,500 mourners. A rally held later that day in West Oakland was attended by more than 2,000 people and included a eulogy by actor Marlon Brando.
Every year since Hutton’s death, friends and family have held a memorial service at DeFremery Park which was later renamed Bobby Hutton Park by the City of Oakland in 1998. Around the same time the Commemoration Committee for the Black Panther Party organized the Lil’ Bobby Hutton Literacy Campaign.
Born on August 8, 1939, in Louisiana, Love, who was 39 years old at the time of her death, was a widow. Her husband William died of sickle cell anemia six months prior to Love’s confrontation with the police. As a widow, Love was drowning in bills ranging from utility charges to mortgage payments. She struggled to support her three young daughters.
On January 3, 1979, a utility worker from Southern California Gas Company came to shut her gas off over a $66 unpaid gas bill. Love reportedly became distressed by his visit. She attacked the worker with a shovel and chased him off her property. Love then left her house to take out a few money orders from a nearby store, including the minimum $22.09 payment for the gas bill.
The first utility worker who was chased away by Love called the police. While Love was out, the gas company had sent over two more workers to collect the bill. Further infuriated by the new utility workers, Love went back into her house and grabbed an 11-inch boning knife. During that time, the police officers had arrived at the scene. When ordered to drop the knife, Love refused, turned away to walk back inside her house, and again turned back towards the officers, tossing the knife in their direction. The two officers immediately fired 12 shots from 8 and 12 feet away. Most of the bullets hit Love’s legs and lower body, but a fatal shot went through her chest. Love collapsed, dead. The officers then proceeded to handcuff her body on the grass.
The Los Angeles County District Attorney exonerated the two police officers involved in the shooting on April 17, 1979. The LAPD “Shooting Review Board” ruled the case to be within policy. These decisions prompted mass community protests and were later challenged by the Los Angeles Police Commission. The Commission concluded in its report that the shooting did not meet departmental standards. The police officers were guilty of exercising poor judgment. The Commission also challenged the Police Department’s Shooting Review Board, claiming that the board exonerated the officers based on faulty and incomplete evidence. Unfortunately, the commission was not backed by any legal law enforcement and so the exoneration stood.
Eula Love’s death led the way to reforming how law enforcement officers use deadly and excessive force. However, the Los Angeles Police Department was slow to change its policy or practices in the field.
Eula Mae Love is buried in Moses Cemetery, in her home state, Louisiana.
When several students from the Parson’s School of Design reported that they witnessed Stewart’s beating from their dormitories, officers John Kostick, Henry Boerner, and Anthony Piscola were charged with criminally negligent homicide, assault, and perjury.
The court case experienced several complications, and ultimately the all-white jury only charged John Kostick for perjury. The other officers were declared not guilty on all points. The most poignant impediment was the city medical examiner Dr. Eliot Gross’ conflicting reports for the cause of death. Dr. Gross initially cited the cause of death to be cardiac arrest, which would have been unrelated to the injuries sustained. But a month after the initial proclamation he changed the cause of death to a spinal injury, which would have directly related to the abuse before Stewart’s arrival at the hospital. He later said that he changed his verdict for fear of public backlash. The three medical experts called to the witness stand during the case all gave different reports for the cause of death: asphyxiation from a blow to the neck, cardiac arrest from a blow to the side or chest, or intoxication and blunt-force-trauma.
The prosecution brought forward forty-eight witnesses, twenty-three of which were Parson’s students. The defense brought no witnesses forward during the case. Unfortunately, due in part to the conflicting reports of the medical examiners and the inability of the Parson’s students to identify a specific officer, the jury acquitted the officers on both the use of excessive force and official misconduct charges.
Michael Stewart’s case is one of many listed in the struggle against the unequal treatment of African Americans in the medical and legal system. Stewart’s attorney noted that every person in the courtroom was white. The only person of color was Michael Stewart. Steward could no longer speak for himself and the Medical examiner seemed to be confused about how Stewart died. One writer famously called Michael Stewart “the man nobody killed.”
Today, Stewart’s death continues to inspire graffiti artists and the general public to protest police brutality and create works of art that challenge Americans to reevaluate their society.
Late in the evening on Friday, November 12, 1988, Kyle Brewster, Kenneth Murray “Death” Mieske, and Steve Strasser approached Seraw and two other Ethiopian immigrants on Southeast 31st Ave. in front of Seraw’s residence. The three verbally and physically assaulted Mulugeta and his colleagues using steel-toed boots. Mieske repeatedly hit Seraw with a baseball bat leaving him in a pool of his own blood. Seraw died the following day.
One week later, Brewster, Mieske, and Strasser were arrested and would be ultimately convicted. Mieske pleaded guilty to first degree murder and was sentenced to life imprisonment. Brewster and Strasser pleaded guilty to assault and manslaughter charges resulting in 20-year sentences. In order to prevent attacks like this in the future, the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Alabama brought a lawsuit on behalf of the Seraw family against Tom Metzger, a national leader of the Ku Klux Klan and the White Aryan Resistance, and his son John Metzger. The Center won a $12.5 million dollar judgement which bankrupted the Alabama Klux Klan and the Metzgers.
Moreover, the Seraw death led to large rallies in Portland attended by people of various racial backgrounds. These rallies which involved thousands of Portland residents, disavowed white supremacy and condemned WAR. The trial of the Mulugeta Seraw killers would also set a precedent in future cases and help build a large and permanent anti-racist movement in Portland.
In 2018, thirty years after Seraw’s death, the city of Portland began to memorialize Seraw through a series of signs erected near his residence in both English and Amharic, the official language of Ethiopia. That same year Ted Wheeler, the Mayor of Portland, issued a proclamation declaring November 13, Mulugeta Seraw Day across the city. On October 11, 2018, Oregon Senator Ron Wyden addressed the U.S. Senate about the incident and declared that the death of Mulugeta Seraw was an affront to the values of all Oregonians.
Philip Pannell Jr. was born on October 3, 1973 in Teaneck to Thelma Pannell-Dantzler and Phillip Pannell Sr. Pannell’s early life was difficult. He grew up with a father who struggled with drugs and alcohol and who was in and out of jail. Pannell himself got into trouble often fighting with the kids from outside his northeast Teaneck mostly Black neighborhood. The city of 38,000 was a mostly middle-class New York City suburb with a 25% Black population.
On April 10, 1990, someone called the Teaneck Police Department claiming he saw a boy with a gun among other teenagers in a schoolyard. Officers Gary Spath and Wayne Blanco responded to the call. When the officers arrived, they confronted Pannell who was holding the gun, a starter pistol that had been modified to hold bullets. Parnell and the other teenagers fled and Spath chased him, eventually opening fire and shooting the teenager in the back, instantly killing him. Spath said he shot Pannell as the teenager was turning around to fire on him. Many witnesses, however, said Pannell had his hands up when the shooting occurred. According to the police officers, a fully loaded .22 caliber pistol was recovered from the jacket pocket of Pannell.
An autopsy was conducted by the Bergen County Medical Examiner who originally indicated that Pannell was shot in the back with his hands down, supporting Spath’s account of him reaching for his gun. New Jersey Attorney General Robert Del Tufo, however, called the Bergen County Medical Examiner’s autopsy flawed and ordered a new autopsy. The second autopsy conducted by the state medical examiner, proved that Pannell had his hands up when he was shot in the back by Spath. That evidence supported witness accounts of the shooting.
Following the shooting Black residents of Teaneck staged a series of protest marches which attracted Rev. Jesse Jackson and Rev. Al Sharpton to the town. Some of the marches turned violent. Many protesters felt that killing of Pannell was the result of racial profiling and police brutality. Spath was arrested and tried in 1994 on the charge of reckless manslaughter but was acquitted. Soon afterwards he retired from law enforcement. Also, in 1994, the Pannell family settled a civil rights lawsuit against Teaneck for $200,000. In 1995, Teaneck resident Mike Kelly wrote a book called Color Lines: The Troubled Dreams of Racial Harmony in an American Town.
King was born in Sacramento, California in 1965, the year of the first Los Angeles Riot. He moved with his parents to Altadena, a Pasadena suburb, when he was 2. King’s parents cleaned offices and homes. His father, Roland King, died in his early 40s from pneumonia.
The incident which catapulted King to international prominence began at 12:30 am on March 3, when a California Highway Patrol team attempted to pull King over for speeding. Driving at speeds up to 115 mph, King led the police on a 7.8 mile high speed chase. King finally pulled over at a dark park entrance, but did not cooperate with officers and displayed erratic behavior. Officers present recall King displaying symptoms of being under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
King was shot twice with Taser stun darts, and then kicked and beaten with batons for eighty-one seconds before he was finally handcuffed. From the beating he suffered a broken cheekbone and multiple facial fractures, lacerations on the forehead, a fracture of the distal fibula in the right leg, and various bruises, contusions, and abrasions.
That King was African-American and the Los Angeles Police Department officers were white, and that the LAPD had a long record of brutality especially against African Americans, added to the sensation of the case.
Four LAPD officers were arrested and charged with assault and use of excessive force. At the request of the defense the trial was moved from downtown Los Angeles to suburban Simi Valley in neighboring Ventura County, where a predominately white jury without any African Americans was chosen. At the April 1992 trial, three of the officers were exonerated and another was acquitted of all but one charge.
Announcement of the verdict spurred four days of rioting in Los Angeles beginning on April 29, 1992. A twenty-five-square block section of the city was torched. Fifty-four people died in the riots, two thousand were injured, and nearly ten thousand were arrested. More than eight hundred buildings were burned, and damage estimates neared a billion dollars. The riots also touched off similar outbursts in Las Vegas, Atlanta and other cities across the United States.
The officers charged with beating King were then prosecuted federally for civil rights violations. Two of the officers, Sergeant Stacey Koon and Officer Laurence Powell, were convicted on April 17, 1993, and sentenced to thirty months in prison.
Rodney King was awarded $3.8 million in his lawsuit against the city of Los Angeles. Since the incident he experienced continued run-ins with the law, including convictions of drunk driving and spousal abuse. King died at his home in Rialto, California on June 17, 2012. He was 47.
The family moved from Illinois to South Central Los Angeles in 1981 when Latasha was six years old. They rented a place near 89th Street and Broadway, just a few blocks from where Latasha would later be murdered. Latasha’s mother, Crystal, who worked as a waitress in a local tavern, was found brutally shot on November 27, 1985, in a Los Angeles nightclub. The children’s maternal grandmother, Ruth Harlins, then raised Latasha and her siblings.
By the late 1980s, racial tensions were high in South Los Angeles, and especially between Korean storeowners and African American residents of the city. After the change in national immigration laws in 1965 a large number of Korean immigrants arrived in Los Angeles and by 1968 the first Korean-owned market opened in South Central LA. The area was recovering from the recent Watts Riots and Koreans began buying businesses because they were inexpensive and there wasn’t much competition. Longtime African American residents in the area at first welcomed the Koreans but eventually grew angry with them because they refused to hire black employees and often treated their customers poorly. By 1990, 65% of South Central businesses were Korean-owned and a 1992 survey of these storeowners revealed considerable racial prejudice against black customers and black people in general. Koreans in response argued that their attitudes evolved from high crime rates in the area and shop owner fears of shootings and burglaries.
Latasha Harlins became a victim of these racial tensions on the morning of Saturday, March 16, 1991. She entered Empire Liquor, which was owned by a Korean family, to purchase a bottle of orange juice. As she approached the counter, Soon Ja Du, one of the storeowners, accused her of stealing after seeing Harlins place the bottle in her backpack, despite her holding the $2 payment for the $1.79 price of the juice and approaching the counter to pay. Du grabbed the bag and the two women had a violent scuffle. Harlins threw the juice bottle back on the counter and turned to leave the store when Du pulled a .38-caliber handgun and shot 15-year-old Harlins in the back of the head.
Du was arrested and her trial was held on November 15, 1991. Security-camera footage which showed Harlins’ attempt to pay for the juice and the subsequent scuffle between the two women convinced a jury to find Du guilty of voluntary manslaughter and call for the maximum 16-year jail sentence. Judge Joyce Karlin, however, rejected the jury’s recommendation and instead sentenced Du to five years probation, 400 hours of community service, and a $500 fine.
The judge’s decision exacerbated racial tensions between African Americans and Korean immigrants. This tension, along with the beating of Rodney King by Los Angeles police on March 3, 1991, became a catalyst for the 1992 Los Angeles riots. Du’s store was looted, set on fire, and never reopened. Judge Karlin also became a target for numerous protests and later stepped down from the bench. The Harlins family received a $300,000 settlement from Du’s insurance company.
Louima was born in 1966 in Thomassin, Haiti, the oldest of his parents’ four children. His father worked as a tailor and his mother was a homemaker. In the early 1980s, members of Louima’s family began to relocate to New York City to escape the political turbulence in Haiti. Louima remained in Haiti long enough to finish his education. He eventually received a degree in electrical engineering from the Ecole Nationale des Arts Métiers in Port-au-Prince, the nation’s capital. In 1991, he immigrated to New York City and worked at a variety of places including a car dealership and a leather bag manufacturer. In addition, Louima took a handful of English classes at nearby Kingsborough Community College. He eventually settled into a job as a security guard.
On the night of August 9, 1997, Louima was at Club Rendez-Vous in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn when a fight broke out between two female club goers. He and other men attempted to stop the fight just before police officers from the NYPD’s 70th precinct responded to a call reporting the disturbance. Once officers arrived on the scene, a fight between them and club goers commenced. Justin Volpe, a NYPD 70th precinct officer, was punched and believed—incorrectly, as it turned out—that Louima had done it. He arrested Louima on charges of disorderly conduct, obstructing police, and resisting arrest.
On the way to the police station Louima was subjected to beatings by the police officers who used their fists, hand-held radios, and nightsticks. Once they arrived at the station Volpe took Louima to the bathroom, kicked and squeezed his testicles, and then sodomized him with the handle of a plunger. Volpe then pushed the handle of the plunger into Louima’s mouth. All these events occurred while Louima’s hands were handcuffed behind his back.
The following day Louima was brought to the Coney Island Hospital emergency room with multiple injuries including broken teeth and severe damage to his colon and bladder. The officers said his injuries were the result of “abnormal homosexual activities” but an ER nurse doubted these claims and called Louima’s family as well as NYPD’s Internal Affairs bureau. Her call initiated local and eventually national press coverage of the police officers’ brutal assault on Louima.
Officer Volpe was found guilty in December of 1999 of assaulting Louima and threatening his life. He was sentenced to 30 years in prison without the possibility of parole. Charles Schwartz, another NYPD 70th precinct officer, was convicted of assault on Louima in June of 2000 and sentenced to 15 years behind bars for assisting Volpe in the bathroom. Three other officers, Thomas Bruder, Michael Bellomo, and Thomas Wiese, were indicted in 2000 for trying to cover up the assault but their convictions were later overturned in 2002 due to a lack of evidence. Abner Louima was paid $8.7 million dollars as a result of a civil suit against the city, the largest police brutality settlement in New York City’s history. With the $5.8 million he kept after legal fees were assessed, he and his family established a charity in Haiti.
Louima now lives in Miami Lakes, Florida, with his wife Micheline, and their three children. He is a frequent speaker on police brutality and police-community relations.
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 wou