As we mark the 25th anniversary of the tragic death of Amadou Diallo, our hearts are once again with his family and all those who have been affected by similar injustices. Amadou, an unarmed 23-year-old immigrant from Guinea, was killed on February 4, 1999, by plainclothes officers of the New York City Police Department’s Street Crime Unit. The loss of Amadou under a hail of 41 bullets, based on a grievous misjudgment, is a moment that remains etched in the memory of our city and our nation.
Our firm had the solemn privilege of representing Amadou’s family in their quest for justice and accountability. Although no legal outcome could ever compensate for the loss of a loved one, the $3 million settlement reached with the City of New York in March 2004 was a recognition of the profound wrongness of the actions that led to Amadou’s death. It was one of the largest settlements of its kind under New York State’s “wrongful death law”, highlighting the gravity of the negligence, wrongful death, racial profiling, and violations of civil rights that occurred.
The acquittal of the officers involved did not deter us from our pursuit of justice, nor did it silence the voices demanding change. Instead, it galvanized a movement towards police reform and accountability that continues to this day. The disbandment of the Street Crime Unit in 2002 and the ongoing calls for transparency and fairness in policing are testaments to the enduring impact of Amadou’s story.