MANHATTAN (CN) — Gathering outside of New York City’s police headquarters on Tuesday morning, a grieving mother held an interfaith service seeking justice against the officers who shot her son Mohammad Bah.
The congregants learned by the afternoon that federal prosecutors would not answer their prayers.
“Today U.S. Attorney Joon Kim and the Department of Justice failed to uphold equal justice and failed our family, New York and the nation,” Hawa Bah said in a statement.
“I’m outraged and grief stricken that the DOJ has chosen not to move forward with my son’s case in spite of clear evidence that the NYPD murdered him execution-style and violated his civil rights,” she continued. “I am heart broken for this country because without accountability the unjust police violence against black people, other people of color, and people in emotional distress will continue.”
Before his death on Sept. 25, 2012, Guinean immigrant Mohamed Bah was a 28-year-old Muslim honors student, struggling with clinical depression.
Though Bah’s mother had requested an ambulance when she called 911 from the family’s Bronx home that day, the dispatcher sent NYPD officers instead.
The officers were expecting to find an emotionally disturbed person, and police say they fired their guns, 10 times in total, because Bah had lunged at one of the officers with a knife.
Bah’s family meanwhile denies any threat, saying detective Edwin Mateo triggered the shooting when he was mistakenly hit with the stun gun being used by fellow officer Andrew Kress.
“He’s stabbing me,” the Bahs say Mateo yelled. “Shoot him.”
An autopsy showed Bah was struck with eight bullets, but Hurricane Sandy hit the Eastern Seaboard the next month, destroying much of the physical evidence from the Bah case that the city stored in a Brooklyn warehouse.
U.S. prosecutors say they could not build much of a case on remaining eyewitness testimony.
“In reaching this determination, the office considered, among other things, testimony from the only eye witnesses to the events (law enforcement officers) that Mr. Bah was holding a knife and lunged at the officers, the fact that vests worn by officers at the scene have slashes consistent with penetration by a knife, and the lack of video evidence of the incident,” Kim said.
That explanation from the chief prosecutor for the Southern District of New York did little, however, to satisfy mother Hawa Bah.
“Kim’s decision not to move forward with my son’s case is an injustice against my family,” she said this morning, holding a picture of her son for the press. “It is also an injustice against all those who have been unjustly killed by the police. Because of men like Joon Kim, along side President Trump and others in his administration, the police believe they can brutalize and kill us and get away with
Kim also noted that a grand jury decided not to issue a state-level indictment against the officers who shot Bah in 2013.
“After conducting a review of the evidence, including physical and documentary evidence, as well as grand jury and civil deposition testimony, this office has determined that there is insufficient evidence to meet the high burden of proof required for a federal criminal civil rights prosecution,” he said in a statement.
The Bah family is still pursuing a $70 million civil rights lawsuit.
At a June hearing, Bah’s mother broke down in tears after hearing her attorney Debra Cohen speak of an “execution-style” shot to her son’s head.
Another bereaved Guinean immigrant mother then comforted her: Kadiatou Diallo, whose late son Amadou Diallo was shot 41 times by police.
The officers who shot Diallo were acquitted at trial, and his family ultimately settled their civil-rights suit for $3 million.
The mothers of both slain men stood by each other at this morning’s press conference.