The four police officers who killed a West African immigrant in a hail of 41 bullets will not receive departmental punishment for the shooting but will undergo retraining in tactics and firearms use, New York Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik said today.
However, the officers will not be allowed to carry their service revolvers, putting them on non-enforcement duty, Kerik said. They will serve without their weapons until Kerik determines they are fit for regular duty.
Kerik accepted the recommendations of two police investigative panels, concluding that the officers acted within departmental guidelines when they gunned down Amadou Diallo in February 1999. The panels said the officers believed their lives were in danger because they thought Diallo had a gun. The 22-year-old had been holding his wallet.
The four officers — Kenneth Boss, 29, Sean Carroll, 38, Edward McMellon, 29, and Richard Murphy, 28 — were acquitted of criminal charges last year. Earlier this year, the Justice Department declined to pursue a civil rights case against them. The officers still face an $81 million civil lawsuit filed by Diallo's family.
Free to Resume Careers
Kerik's decision means the officers are free to resume their police careers. Since the Feb. 4, 1999, shooting, all four have been on desk duty with their guns and badges taken away. Boss and Carroll have said they wish to remain on the force, while McMellon and Murphy have applied to the Fire Department.
At the time of the shooting, the officers were part of the Street Crime Unit, which focuses on high-crime areas. Now, McMellon and Murphy are with the Harbor Unit, Boss is assigned to the Emergency Service Unit, and Carroll is with the Aviation Unit.
McMellon was one of the top 200 finishers out of 6,000 applicants on the most recent firefighter test. Fire officials had put his application on hold pending the outcome of the NYPD review.
The shooting severely strained relations between the police and the city's black community and sparked wild protests and allegations of endemic police brutality.
A Mother's Frustration, Officers' Relief
On Thursday, Kadiatou Diallo, Diallo's mother, said she was not surprised the officers would not be disciplined.
"It's been over two years since I came to America. The only thing that I can claim still is justice," she said. "Unfortunately, it is not happening, and I don't understand why."
Attorneys for the officers said their clients were relieved this process was over.
"It's been a long road, and the officers are pleased that the department has vindicated their actions," said Stephen Worth, McMellon's attorney.
His client is looking forward to joining the Fire Department, Worth added.
"He lives with this every day, but he still wants to be in a business where he's helping people," Worth said.
James Culleton, Murphy's attorney, said his client also wishes to be a fireman, like his father. Culleton added that the incident has been scrutinized thoroughly, and "in the end, there was no wrongdoing."
"There are people who are going to never change their opinion, that's human nature, but hopefully the majority of the people will say it's time to move on," Culleton said.
Attorneys for Boss and Carroll did not immediately return telephone calls for comment.