Connecticut Trooper Acquitted In Shooting Death Of Black College Student After Chase

A white Connecticut state trooper was acquitted of all charges Friday in the killing of Mubarak Soulemane, a black 19-year-old community college student who was shot while sitting behind the wheel of a stopped stolen automobile, wielding a kitchen knife, and clearly suffering from a mental health crisis.

If Trooper Brian North, 33, had been convicted of first-degree manslaughter in the shooting on January 15, 2020, he could have faced up to 40 years in jail. The state’s inspector general stated that the shooting should not have occurred since North and other officers were not in immediate danger. However, a six-person jury in Milford acquitted him of that allegation as well as two lesser counts: second-degree manslaughter and negligent homicide.

North exhibited little emotion as the verdicts were read. He then shook hands with his lawyers and hugged the leader of the state police union. North didn’t say anything as he left court, but his primary attorney, Frank Riccio II, stated that the trooper is still upset about the shooting.

“This is not something that he will ever live down because it was a very traumatic experience,” he said. “The verdict is obviously favorable for him, but it doesn’t change what happened on Jan. 15.”

Relatives and acquaintances of Soulemane, including his mother and sister, declined to comment as they left the courthouse. Mark Arons, the family’s attorney, expressed how devastated they were by the conviction.

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“We have questions about whether justice was fully done and received here,” Arons was quoted as saying. “The trooper gets to live his life, and Mubarak’s never coming back.”

He said the verdict was another tragedy for the family, but it would not alter the family’s lawsuit against North and the other police present that day.

“Through the trial, they’ve had to relive all of the tragic events that occurred that terrible afternoon and evening. And then to hear the acquittal on all three counts is a tragedy all over again.”

The case drew the attention of the local NAACP and the Rev. Al Sharpton, but race was not mentioned as a factor in the shooting at trial.

Scot X. Esdaile, president of the NAACP’s Connecticut State Conference, referred to the acquittal as “a major atrocity.”

“Very disappointed. It’s a major setback. “Shame on the jury,” Esdaile said over the phone. “They did not need to assassinate this young man. “I believe this is a disgusting decision.”

On the day of the incident, North fired his revolver seven times at close range into the car’s driver’s window after Soulemane led police on a high-speed chase down Interstate 95. The incident occurred less than a minute after the car collided with another vehicle in West Haven, stopping the chase, and police encircled the vehicle.

North said that he fired after Soulemane produced a 9-inch knife and made a menacing gesture. He claimed Soulemane posed a threat to police officers who were on the opposite side of the car and had just busted the passenger door window.

However, Inspector General Robert Devlin, who investigates all police uses of fatal force in the state, stated that no officers were in danger since the stolen automobile was boxed in, preventing Soulemane from fleeing. He stated that officers made no attempt to de-escalate the incident.

The state police union, however, chastised Devlin for charging North, claiming he was forced to make a split-second decision and believed he was protecting fellow officers.

Devlin released a statement following the trial, stating that while his office is dissatisfied with the judgment, it respects the jury’s decision.

Soulemane suffered from schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, according to his family. Soulemane’s mother, sister, and girlfriend testified during the trial that in the days preceding the shooting, his mental health problems were deteriorating and he was being paranoid and unpredictable, which he had previously demonstrated when he went off his meds.

According to authorities, Soulemane’s death began when he showed the knife at an AT&T store in Norwalk and unsuccessfully attempted to take a telephone. He then smacked a Lyft driver and fled in the driver’s car after the driver exited, leading police on a 30-mile (48-kilometer) chase from Norwalk to West Haven during afternoon rush hour at speeds of up to 100 mph (161 kph).

According to state police body camera footage, after the case was resolved, a West Haven officer smashed the passenger door window of the stolen vehicle before another trooper, Joshua Jackson, blasted Soulemane with a Taser through the window, which had no impact on Soulemane, who was wearing a heavy coat.

North said that he discharged his gun because he believed the West Haven cop, whom he couldn’t see, had leaned in through the damaged glass and was in danger from Soulemane, who motioned to the passenger side of the car while wielding the knife.

“I was afraid that he was going to be stabbed in the face or the neck, which obviously can be a fatal injury,” North said at the time.

On cross-examination, Devlin stated that the films showed the other police not attempting to enter the vehicle, and he questioned North about whether he still believed anyone was genuinely in danger.

“Not based on what I could see now and after hearing testimony,” but what I perceived at the time was that there was danger,” North explained.

In the complaint against the cops, Omo Mohammad, Soulemane’s mother, offered $13 million to settle the wrongful death case.

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Jimmy Clyde
Jimmy Clyde
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