?Black Activists Urge DOJ to File Civil Charges against NY Cops

July 7, 2008 - 8:02 PM

Washington, DC (CNSNews.com) - Black activists and the parents of Amadou Diallo met on Thursday with the number two official at the Justice Department and urged him to file civil rights charges against the four New York City police officers acquitted in the shooting death of the West African immigrant.

After the meeting, nearly 2,000 demonstrators marched around the Justice Department building seven times, chanting "No justice! No peace!" and waving placards and flags. Many protesters were bused in from New York and New Jersey.

Diallo's parents, the Reverend Al Sharpton, former New York City Mayor David Dinkens and NAACP leader Kwesi Mfume were among several people to express optimism after a two-hour meeting with Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder.

"The meeting was very great and fruitful, and we have very high hopes," said Saiko Diallo, the victim's father.

Holder said the Diallo case is a priority, but he made no guarantee that the Justice Department would pursue civil rights charges against Sean Carroll, Edward McMellon, Kenneth Boss and Richard Murphy, the four New York City policemen involved in Diallo's death.

"These are difficult cases to prosecute. The standard that we have to meet on the federal side is a high one, but we will look at the case," Holder told reporters in a news conference before the meeting with rally officials.

To obtain a conviction, federal prosecutors would have to show the officers intended to deny Diallo his civil rights.

The officers fired 41 shots at Diallo in the early hours of February 4, 1999, in the narrow vestibule of his Bronx apartment building. The officers testified they were looking for a rape suspect and fired when Diallo reached for what they thought was a gun. It turned out to be his wallet.

The officers were acquitted last week of charges ranging from second-degree murder to reckless endangerment by a racially-diverse jury.

Wire services report that after the verdict, some jurors laid blame for the acquittals on a lackluster prosecution by Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson's office. One juror said that she was surprised when prosecutor Eric Warner declined to cross-examine the final witness, an expert on police practices. Some activists have called for Johnson, an African American, to resign.

Representative Charles Rangel (D-NY) said Diallo supporters raised questions with Holder over whether the case was vigorously prosecuted and whether the judge was too supportive of the defendants.

Media reports say that among some factors that may be considered in reviewing the trial with an eye to civil rights charges are incompetence, corruption, intimidation or undue influence based on Justice Department guidelines.

The Justice Department has an ongoing investigation into the patterns and practices of the New York Police Department. That probe was expanded to include the Street Crimes Unit after Diallo's shooting. All four police officers in the Diallo shooting were members of the unit, a roving group of plainclothes officers.