He was shot by a state trooper months before George Floyd. Floyd’s police killers have been indicted, tried and convicted. Yet there has still been no decision whether to even indict any of the officers involved in the shooting of Mubarak Soulemane through a car window on January 15, 2020.
To remind readers of an article I wrote a year ago on the homicide, Mubarak Soulemane, age 19, had stolen a car in Norwalk and drove at high speed on the highway. He took the West Haven exit and within a minute was surrounded by police cars. There’s plenty of video from state trooper dashcams that showed what happened next. He was wedged in-between police cars. His car windows were up, and he sat there. Yes, he had a knife in his lap. But troopers and West Haven police acted like he was John Dillinger. Trooper Brian North immediately aimed his pistol at him and ordered him to get out of the car. Another trooper had a gun pointed at him from the passenger side. Why pull out the pistols? When Soulemane didn’t instantly obey him, Trooper North told a policeman to smash in the passenger side window and shoot a taser. Five seconds after the taser was shot, North opened fire from his pistol.
Soulemane was not threatening anyone. He was just sitting there. Why not deescalate and talk the youth into surrendering?
Two things are at issue here: Should anyone be criminally charged and should anyone be fired or disciplined. Middlesex State Attorney Michael Gailor has had the case for almost two years but made no decision on the criminal charges. Sure, there was and is a pandemic, but the prosecution and trial of the police who killed George Floyd also took place during the pandemic.
Beyond criminal responsibility there’s the matter of competence and judgement. Why should someone be on the force who was so quick to shoot a gun and take a life? What about the other troopers and West Haven police who went along with this, who never told North to take it easy and let things get straightened out? The only discipline so far, if it can be called discipline, is that Trooper North was put on desk duty and remains there to this day.
You can imagine the agony of the family. I asked the sister of Mubarak Soulemane, Mariyan Soulemane, for a comment, and she wrote:
“Our family is mentally drained by this drawn-out process of holding State Trooper Brian North accountable for shooting my brother 7 times. Reliving this trauma for almost 2 years now has been taxing and doing it in the public eye has been even more overwhelming. We realized that, since Mubarak’s passing, we have not been granted a pause to process our loss. Therefore, as a family, we decided to take a step back and process this internally whilst still attending important meetings and awaiting a verdict.”
There is news. The Soulemane family lawyer Mark Arons has filed a lawsuit against the city of West Haven for negligence and excessive force, and failure to intervene and deescalate. He’s also filed suit against three state troopers for constitutional violations. I interviewed him recently and he said he’s doing this now because there a two-year statute of limitations. He also told me the case has been taken over at the state level by the newly appointed Inspector General, Robert Devlin. As Arons put it, “Delays, after delays and still further delay now.”
I spoke with Scot X. Esdaile, President of the CT NAACP State Conference, and he said, “The CT NAACP will be meeting with the new State Inspector General to discuss this very important matter, and we want to make sure that this is a top priority.”
This incident is not going away. Besides being reported in Connecticut media, it has become nationally known. “US News” “Essence” “Associate Press News”, “CNN” and the New York Times Student Journalist Institute have had reports. An interview of Mubarak’s sister with a leader of the national organization Black Lives Matter received over 60,000 views on Instagram. The case even received attention in a British newspaper.
The family of Mubarak Soulemane deserves justice. Out-of-control law officers need to be disciplined and charged. Two years is too long. #Justice4Mubarak
Stanley Heller is executive director of Promoting Enduring Peace, a peace, environmental and social justice organization founded in New Haven in 1952.