Race and Police Use of Deadly Force
In the old days, the cops simply shot their black victims and [planted]
a weapon the officers carried for such emergencies. Nowadays,
weapons need exist only in the mind of the policeman in [the] firing
—Les Payne, Journalist for Newsday1
February 4, 1999. About midnight. Amadou Diallo, a twenty- two-year-old immigrant from West Africa, had just come home to his South Bronx apartment at 1157 Wheeler Avenue after an evening of selling CDs, hats, gloves, and watches on Fourth Street. The front door of the apartment building, which was painted red, was propped open, giving the building a warm and inviting appearance, like an oasis in the middle of a desert.
Lingering for just a moment in the vestibule of his apartment building, Diallo suddenly heard the screeching of tires and saw four white men with guns pointed straight at him come pouring out of a car. One of the men yelled something at Diallo. Even though English was not his first language, Diallo's English was fairly good and usually he didn't have trouble understanding people. That night, however, the West African man couldn't understand what the man was shouting. The only thing he could think was that this was a hold-up and the men wanted his money.
Diallo reached into his back pants pocket and pulled out his wallet, offering it to the men in a desperate effort to be left alone. Instead, he heard someone shout, “Gun!” and the next thing he knew, the men were firing at him. Stunned, Diallo tried to remain standing for as long as he could, but the rain of bullets kept coming. Forty-one bullets in all. Nineteen of the forty-one bullets entered his body, searing him with unbelievable pain. One bullet perforated his aorta. Another struck his spinal cord. Another his lungs. Another his liver. Another his spleen. Another his kidney. Another his intestines. More than ten bullets struck his legs. Finally, he couldn't