Lord God, during this Lenten season, teach us to come before you in humility, lamenting the signs that your kingdom has not yet come in its fullness. Help us to acknowledge our finitude and failings, and guide us into a journey of remembering rightly, repenting honestly, and responding faithfully. We long for the coming of your mosaic kingdom in Jesus Christ, our Lord, and invite your Holy Spirit to lead us now.
THIS DAY IN HISTORY: MARCH 31, 1999
Four New York City police officers charged with murder for killing Amadou Diallo
The shooting occurred about 12:40 a.m. on Feb. 4, 1999, when the four officers, all in street clothes, approached Mr. Diallo on the stoop of his building and fired 41 shots, striking him 19 times, as he retreated inside. The officers claimed that they loudly identified themselves as NYPD officers and that Diallo ran up the outside steps toward his apartment house doorway at their approach. Officers also claimed that Diallo ignored their orders to stop and “show his hands.” Yet, in spite of this claim, they said that Diallo, whom they could only see a silhouette of (due to the porch light bulb being out and Diallo being backlit by the inside vestibule light), stopped, reached into his jacket, and withdrew his wallet. Diallo was taking out his wallet to identify himself to the officers, although they believed that he was pulling out a gun to attack them. Seeing the suspect holding a small square object, one of the officers, Carroll, yelled out “Gun!” to alert his colleagues. The officers subsequently opened fire on Diallo. During the one- way shooting (because Diallo did not have a gun), lead officer McMellon tripped backward off the front stairs, and his fellow officers claimed that this caused them to believe that McMellon had been shot.
The officers, who are all white, said they thought Diallo had a gun, but as it turned out, all he only had was his wallet and a beeper.
Initially, a Bronx grand jury indicted the four officers on charges of second-degree murder and reckless endangerment on March 25, 1999. However, 9 months later, on December 16, an appellate court mandated a new venue be assigned for a retrial. The appellate court said that the retrial needed to occur outside of New York City because pretrial publicity within the city had made a fair trial impossible. The trial was moved to Albany after lawyers for the officers persuaded an appeals court that the ”public clamor” over the shooting made a fair trial impossible in the Bronx. The ruling meant that the jurors would be picked from a largely white population rather than the largely minority Bronx population.
Therefore, the trial was moved to Albany, New York. On February 25, 2000, after two days of deliberation, the Albany jury acquitted all four officers of all charges. This was the verdict even though during the retrial, the officers acknowledged their mistake in shooting Mr. Diallo and the fact that three of the four cops had previously been involved in prior shootings; with one of the officers–Kenneth Boss–having just been involved in another incident where he shot and killed another unarmed man–22-year-old Patrick Bailey– just two years prior, on October 31, 1997. As a result, Boss was sued twice and lost the right to have his guns back until about 2012.
In March 2004, NYPD paid Kadijatou (Amadou’s mother), and Saikou (Amadou’s father) Diallo a $3,000,000 settlement, after the Diallo’s filed a $61,000,000 lawsuit ($20m plus $1m for each of the 41 shots fired) against the city and the officers, charging gross negligence, wrongful death, racial profiling, and other violations of Diallo’s civil rights.
SCRIPTURAL REFLECTION: ISAIAH 59: 12-15
“For our offenses are many in your sight, and our sins testify against us.
Our offenses are ever with us, and we acknowledge our iniquities:
13 rebellion and treachery against the Lord, turning our backs on our God, inciting revolt and oppression,
uttering lies our hearts have conceived.
14 So justice is driven back, and righteousness stands at a distance;
truth has stumbled in the streets, honesty cannot enter.
15 Truth is nowhere to be found, and whoever shuns evil becomes a prey.
The Lord looked and was displeased
that there was no justice.
RESPONSE OF LAMENT AND CONFESSION: Please spend some time in personal response, crying out to God with prayers, poems, songs, or art that expresses your lament and confession. If you feel led, please share these responses with others, using #lentenlament #day31
You may close with the following:
Lord have mercy,
Christ have mercy,
Lord have mercy.
CLOSING PRAYER: After a Shooting at the Hands of Police (Kenji Kuramitsu)
O Protector and Servant of the Oppressed,
whose Child was pierced with metal
by militarized police officers,
we know that wherever there is a broken body,
wherever there are tears,
you are there.
May your holy and life-giving Spirit
so move every human heart that
all racial barriers that divide us would crumble.
May those who have been ordained to protect and serve
repent of their violence,
that they may join us
in the new life you have promised in Jesus Christ.
–From A Booklet of Uncommon Prayer: Collects for the #BlackLivesMatter Movement and Beyond