The verdict in the yearlong wait for justice in the murder case of Amadou Diallo, 22, was announced last week after three days of deliberation. The four officers who shot and killed Diallo on February 4, 1999 were found not guilty on all possible charges. For all those who are unaware of the Diallo case, it is just one of the many blatant forms of police injustices to occur in recent times.
At 12:45 a.m., Diallo was outside his apartment building and according to the officers involved, he was acting very suspiciously. By this, they meant he was looking over his shoulder up and down the street as he walked home. They inferred from this behavior that he was probably doing something illegal and needed to be stopped. So the four plain-clothed officers parked their unmarked car near Diallo’s apartment and two approached him with their weapons drawn. One of the officers claimed to have told Diallo that they were the N.Y.P.D. and he needed to halt, but that Diallo rushed toward his building instead. As Diallo opened the door to his building he proceeded to place his hand in his pocket, and it was this simple action that initiated the hail of 41 bullets, 19 of which killed him.
The officers claimed they were acting in self-defense, they claimed that their training with the police department and their histories on the job conditioned them to fire. That an action such as placing your hand in your pocket meant that you were going to pull out a gun. They testified that when they realized Diallo did not have a gun and that he was only carrying some keys and a wallet, they were horrified.
What is more horrifying than their misguided judgment is that an innocent man can be murdered without any just cause. That the people who murdered this man can claim self-defense in a situation that clearly defines them as the aggressors. The officers had no visible signs to show that they belonged to the Police Department, and at 12:45 a.m. with guns drawn, their actions did not support that assumption. Diallo was walking away from them, the officers testified to that, and yet they perceived him as a threat. Not to themselves they said, but to those who lived inside the apartment building. They imagined him reaching for a gun that did not exist, so that he could fire upon people who were not there, because he was guilty of a crime he had never committed.
And what is to become of this case? As of now, all four officers have been found not guilty. They are still a part of the police force, still armed, and still at work. Their lives will continue, changed in some ways, but will continue nonetheless. While a young man who had his whole life ahead of him, is now dead and buried. Diallo was only 22 years old, not much older than many of us, when his life was so tragically taken.
The worst part of this entire case is that a man is dead and nobody seems to care. Many call his death an accident and this is supposed to make it acceptable. The police are hiding behind their badges, and a corrupt system has proven once again that justice is still an American dream unperceived. From New York City to Los Angeles, where a recent investigation into the L.A.P.D. has uncovered many corrupt officers, it seems that the justice system in this country is failing the American people, no matter who is to blame.