A tearful Omo Mohammed speaks at the vigil for her son one year after he was killed on Janaury 15, 2020. The vigil was held exactly where Muhammed Soulemane was shot by trooper Brian North seven times.
Several dozen people attended and TV and print media provided coverage. They displayed the anguish of the family well, but generally they missed the key point. At the time Soulemane was shot he was in a stopped car, surrounded by police cars. He was sitting in his seat with his seat belt on with all the windows up. There was no reason to think he had a gun. Whether he had a knife or not was irrelevant. His mental state was irrelevant. He was not at all a danger to any of the police.
Connecticut News 12 did the best. They showed a picture of the car wedged next to police cars. The cut to Mark Arons, the family lawyer who said, ""Mubarak was fully isolated and contained within the vehicle so he posed no harm to anyone."
The police response: to draw guns on a person helpless in a car, to not make any attempt to deescalate or to wait, and to shoot a person through a window seven times, that was completely wrong and probably criminal.
The media also neglected something else, the complete lack of outrage by state and local politicians. No state or local politician has even called for firing or discipline of the trooper who fired the bullets. It's unknown if any were contacted on the 15th. The media also did not interview anyone at the West Haven police department about their refusal to issue any kind of report to the public of what happened on Jan. 15 of last year and why their officers didn’t tell the troopers to lower their guns.
Reportedly West Haven police are arresting protesters who took part in a march to the police station of July 5 of last year, six months after the protest. West Haven police used police dogs to control and intimidate marchers who had come near a car of a woman who had driven through the march clipping several people.
The picture that accompanies this article comes from a drawing by the American artist Marc Nelson commissioned by Promoting Enduring Peace.
The information about the prospect of more arrests in West Haven comes from this Mic Check interview with Kira Ortoleva by Mike Merli on WPKN.
Mariyanne Soulemane to speak on Scott Harris' Counterpoint program Monday 1/11. Counterpoint is heard every Monday night on WPKN 89.5 FM, Bridgeport, CT between 8:00 - 10:00 pm ET. Webstreaming and audio archive at http://wpkn.org Mariyann was probably be speaking in the last segment around 9:30 p.m.
Stanley Heller interviewed Mark Arons, attorney for the Soulemane family, on January 7. Details about the West Haven police that the public has not heard about revealed in the interview. To see it click here.
And on January 13 the CT Mirror published Stanley Heller criticism of Governor Ned Lamont's silence about the killing of Soulemane by one of his state troopers.
Not about West Haven directly, but read this Washington Post article by new member of Congress, Cori Bush, in the Washington Post. She writes about the facts that there were no police dogs to face the white nationalists in DC on January 6 compared to the frequent use of police dogs against peaceful #BLM protesters.
The young man was in a car surrounded by state trooper and police cars. He had no gun. The windows were up. He had nowhere to go. Yet State Trooper North pulled out his gun as soon as he got out of his vehicle. No member of the police told him that wasn't necessary. Within a minute North killed Mubarak Soulemane by shooting him seven times.
The state attorney has not made any decision on whether to put Trooper North on trial for any crime.
Neither Governor Lamont nor West Haven Mayor Rossi has called for North’s firing, nor has ANY elected official in Connecticut. Neither has a single one publicly CRITICIZED the conduct of any state trooper or member of the police.
The West Haven City Council has made no statement on the killing nor started an investigation.
The West Haven Police Commission has never discussed the killing in an open session (see minutes here), nor has it issued any report or made any mention if any of its officers were disciplined for their role in the incident.
The Commission has not discussed even in general terms whether West Haven police procedures concerning gun use are wise or whether they comply with the new state law.
The vigil on Friday the 15th of January (starting at 4 p.m.) will take place at the killing site, on Campbell Avenue at the intersection of Hall St. right near the highway overpass. Set your GPS at 820 Campbell Avenue.
In looking at the Twitter page of the West Haven Democrats we were stunned to see their August 9 picture entry on the left (without our editorial word "really?"). West Haven politicians were patting themselves on the back for standing for the issues raised by Black Lives Matter.
Of all the gall!
The Democrats listened? Name one politician in this state who has criticized the state trooper for killing Mubarak Soulemane or any of the police who assisted the trooper up until the point he shot the Soulemane seven times. Name one that demanded West Haven police tell what they did on that afternoon on January 15. Yes, it was good that that bill passed in Hartford, but unless police and the haters see that the bill will be backed by strong action it's just words. Nationally 150 years ago there were great laws and constitutional amendments. By themselves they did nothing to protect Blacks and as the decades passed we had Jim Crow and "slavery by another name".
About 20 people gathered in front of the (closed of Fridays) West Haven City Hall to criticize police and city officials. Brandon Patterson, Samantha DeGennaro, and Barbara Fair spoke for the group of "concerned citizens". State Senator Gary Winfield made remarks. The New Haven Register report is here. Fox61was on hand. See its report here (several stories down). Check back for our report and TSVN video in a day or two.
Here's video of all the speakers on Youtube. (about 26 minutes)
A group of West Haven residents will be holding a press conference Friday 9/25 in front of West Haven City Hall at 4 p.m. to complain about mistreatment by police. Brandon Patterson, Samantha DeGennaro and Barbara Fair will speak. Their press release was entitled "Westies Want Answers and Equal Treatment". They've had fruitless meetings with Police Chief Perno during the summer to talk about issues arising from the Jan. 15 killing of Mubarak Soulemane and treatment of protesters during a West Haven march on July 5 .
The group is asking for supporters of justice to attend the press conference, wearing masks and social distancing (6 feet is the CDC suggestion).
It was the arrest of a woman named Kristin Vega that was the spark for this protest. Police put out a press release with her photo saying she had been arrested for a Facebook post several months ago with an alleged threat against a police officer and the words " “WE NEED TO GET HER FIRED OR JUST BEAT UP POINT BLANK PERIOD”. It's not clear if the female police officer was named or if Vega explained her anger. So now for a rather vague threat issued months ago Vega is shamed (the Register picked up the story as did other media) while the woman who ran into protesters on July 5 hasn't even been named! Nor have police or West Haven politicians said anything about threats to run over protesters or for the need for guns to deal with protests. The group says, "We demand an official statement as to why violent threats against protesters were not investigated."
Another group demand is "an official statement and explanation of the evidence that led police to charge protesters immediately with felonies" On July 5 an unnamed woman drove into the march of protesters on their way down Sawmill Road injuring several of them. Protesters chased down her in her car. Police deployed immediately with dogs and arrested three people on serious charges. The driver was let go and not arrested. One person's bail was $10,000. In answer to calls for an explanation police only say the matter is being investigated. It's been well over two months and nothing has been said to the public about this investigation. The group says in their release, "We demand an official policy ending the use of dogs for crowd
Of course West Haven police have not set a word about their actions or inactions on Janaury 15 in the incident when 19 year-old Mubarak Soulemane was killed when the car he had allegedly taken was surrounded by State Trooper and West Haven police cars. The reason? It's under investigation.
It's expected that the issue of the lack of any charges against the Louisville killing of Breonna Taylor will be raised by speakers or those in attendance. There's growing fury that no police officer will be put on trial for any offense involved in Taylor's killing. (One former detective will be tried for shooting into a neighbor's apartment
It was inevitable that the forces of the “Order” would try to stop police reform. In West Haven the Retired Police Officers Association sent a letter to the Register and West Haven Voice on July 24th backing the old ways 100%. It criticized the slogan “Defund the Police” implying New Haven shootings are on the increase because of that national campaign. This ignores the fact that police budget cuts in New Haven had barely started (July 1st) and were almost all cuts to positions that were already vacant. The letter also had a chilling sentence, “The use of police dogs to help quell any disturbance is exactly what police dogs are trained for in such circumstances, and we applaud the officers for bringing a swift end to the lawlessness of protesters blocking the streets.” They were talking about the protest march on July 5.
Any “disturbance” will be met with dogs say these retired cops. Bull Connor in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963 couldn’t have said it any better. Protesters on July 5 were walking back peacefully from the police station. The only “disturbance” was an unnamed woman who decided to drive through their lines and clipped several of them with her car. But she was let go and escorted home by police.
As for the killing of Mubarak Soulemane who had been penned-in by police cars on January 15, the retired police say West Haven police “should not bear any responsibility for what actions took place by the state police.” For one we don’t know what West Haven police did or did not do during the fateful few minutes. They have never issued any report on their actions. Did one of them smash the car window and thus take part in the excessive use of force event? The retired officers should also realize that in Minneapolis those police who had no part in chocking George Floyd were nevertheless arrested and charged with aiding and abetting murder.
West Haven police officials may be stunned to find that the city is part of Connecticut and the new CT law adopted and signed by the governor on July 31 applies to West Haven police, too. Explicit in the new law is a requirement that any police involved in an incident must intervene if they see other police threatening or using deadly force without proper cause.
On July 26 local politician Steve Mullins, and a dozen or so others, stood on some stairs of the bandstand and held a “Support the Blue” rally. Mullins wants us to “appreciate” the police during these uncertain times. “Appreciate” police who failed to protect people exercising their rights (July 5) from an enraged motorist? Appreciate $10,000 bail for at least one of the arrested protesters? Appreciate a police force that has not explained what their officers did and failed to do on the day in January when Mubarak Soulemane was killed? The West Haven Voice reports “Among the citizens participating were State Rep. Charles Ferrero (R-117), and Board of Education member Patricia Libero”.
Governor Lamont has signed the "Police Accountability" Bill so now it's the law. We detailed some of the major gains in the section immediately below. Here are some other parts of the bill:
Police have to wear body cams and use them. Police cars will have dashboard cameras. State police already have them. Now all the rest have to use them. The state will pay a big share of the cost of the cameras. (a big section starting on line 837) 50% of the cost for "distressed" cities (like West Haven) will be paid by the state (line 1040)
Every once in a while police have to undergo " behavioral health assessments " (see line 126 of the bill and again on line 736)
The Freedom of Information Act overrules parts of a police contract that hide police disciplinary records (starting on line 403)
Civilian review board have the power of subpoena, meaning they can compel witnesses to come and answer questions.
There will be a study done by the Department of Emergency Services and local police departments to see to what extent social workers can be used rather than police in certain emergency situations. (line 817)
No police officer who has stopped a car or truck will ask the operator for the search if the reason for the stop is " solely for a motor vehicle violation".
[Because of indenting this section best read on a computer]
July 29. The full 71 page text of the bill passed by the CT House is here. It was not changed in the Senate.
In considering the use of deadly force the law says it justified by an officer (see page 42) if:
line 1261 "his or her actions are objectively reasonable under the circumstances, and"
(B) He or she (i) has exhausted the reasonable alternatives to the use
1266 of deadly physical force, (ii) reasonably believes that the force employed
1267 creates no substantial risk of injury to a third party
To define what is "reasonable" the law considers whether
(A) the person upon
1281 whom deadly physical force was used possessed or appeared to possess
1282 a deadly weapon, (B) the peace officer, special policeman appointed
1283 under section 29-18b or authorized official of the Department of
1284 Correction or the Board of Pardons and Paroles engaged in reasonable
1285 deescalation measures prior to using deadly physical force, an
So like Gov. Lamont's regulations for the State Police there has to be an attempt at de-escalation, all reasonable alternatives have been tried, there is no danger to third-parties, (by-standers and such)
The use of a chokehold is banned except if the officers life is in imminent peril. So it can't just be used to subdue an unruly person.
This section could be very important:
Any police officer, as defined in section 7-294a, who while
1332 acting in such officer's law enforcement capacity, witnesses another
1333 police officer use what the witnessing officer objectively knows to be
1334 unreasonable, excessive or illegal use of force, shall intervene and
1335 attempt to stop such other police officer from using such force. Any such
1336 police officer who fails to intervene in such an incident may be
1337 prosecuted and punished for the same acts in accordance with the
1338 provisions of section 53a-8 as the police officer who used unreasonable,
1339 excessive or illegal force.
Line 1995 has nearly the same language for correctional officers, that is prison guards.
So an officer MUST intervene if another officers is using illegal force. If the officer doesn't he/she can be punished equally to the active officer.
If the sections above had been the law on January 1 the actions of State Trooper North and those West Haven police who may have assisted him would have been patently illegal
Now for the section that got the most heat. The city or town defends any officer from a court suit while the officer is on duty. However IF the officer has committed a "malicious, wanton or willful act" then the officer has to reimburse the city for his/her legal defense and the fine
(e) In an action under this section, each municipality or law
1966 enforcement unit shall protect and save harmless any such police officer
1967 from financial loss and expense, including legal fees and costs, if any,
1968 arising out of any claim, demand or suit instituted against such officer
1969 by reason of any act undertaken by such officer while acting in the
1970 discharge of the officer's duties. In the event such officer has a judgment
1971 entered against him or her for a malicious, wanton or wilful act in a
1972 court of law, such municipality shall be reimbursed by such officer for
1973 expenses it incurred in providing such defense and shall not be held
1974 liable to such officer for any financial loss or expense resulting from such
1976 (f) In any civil action brought under this section, if the court finds that
1977 a violation of subsection (b) of this section was deliberate, wilful or
1978 committed with reckless indifference, the plaintiff may be awarded
1979 costs and reasonable attorney's fees.
How strong this section is can be debated. But it's better than the Federal standard which allows suits only if the officer's use of deadly force was done in a manner that exactly been already judged to be illegal.
The vote took place at 4 a.m. after nine hours of debate, but the Senate joined the House in passing a "police accountability bill". It limits the "qualified immunity" police have from lawsuits, bans choke holds, and requires officers to intervene and report when a fellow officer is using illegal force. Gary Winfield, state senator for West Haven and part of New Haven was a leading force in writing the bill and getting the bill passed. He stood in the partially empty Senate (because of the danger of the virus) all during the debate and answered questions about the bill and gave impassioned remarks. After hearing senators say they admired the police in their communities he forcefully insisted they realize that police treat Blacks differently.
Governor Lamont has said he would sign the bill.
The picture on our home page is of Sen. Winfield speaking at a Stop Solitary CT rally yesterday morning before the Capitol.
July 22. The West Haven Police Commission met last night. Members of the public were allowed to make a statement by going one by one, having their temperature checked, making a statement and leaving. Everyone was properly masked.
Why wasn't the meeting on Zoom? Eventually there will be minutes, but how do we know what the commissioners said and how they reacted to the public statements?
How can that police commission meeting be considered a public meeting?
See video outside the station here courtesy of The Struggle Video News.
July 21. City of West Haven political and police officials have still not said a word of criticism of the events of January 15, 2020 when Mubarak Soulemane will killed in a hail of State Trooper bullets. They haven't even reported to the public on their view of what happened.
Compare that to Minneapolis where the Mayor condemned the police killing of George Floyd, called for the immediate firing of the police involved and later called for their arrests.
Governor Lamont hasn't said a word either, but a month ago he made an Executive Order that is binding on the State Police. They are filled with common sense notions, like trying to de-escalate situations, and warning a suspect that deadly force is about to be used. See the full list in the next section.
Will the West Haven police commission make these rules binding on West Haven police? And what will it say about the use of police dogs?
On June 15 the Governor of Connecticut issued an Executive Order on the conduct of his State Troopers. It doesn't cover city police, but many of its rules could be a model for police forces around the state.
Here are some of the rules:
If Trooper North had observed these common sense rules in January Mubarak Soulemane would still be alive.
The image on the left is not from West Haven. It's from Selma Alabama in 1965 in the days when Blacks standing up for their freedom were inflicted with the worst kinds of violence from police and racists.
Using dogs on people standing up for their rights naturally causes revulsion. Yet on July 5, 2020 we're told West Haven police brought out police dogs as soon as there were reports of a scuffle after a motorist drove through a number of protesters walking back from a march along Sawmill Drive. What gives? Shouldn't the use of police dogs for crowd control be banned?
Correction: Upon reading Ms. McGee's statement to the West Haven police commission on 7/21/2020 we've learned this picture was from 1963 in Montgomery, Alabama. The young man attacked by the dog was Walter Gadsden.
Mubarak Soulemane (shown on left) on January 15, 2020 allegedly stole a car at knifepoint and drove it on the highway and was chased by CT State Troopers. He left the highway at exit 43 in West Haven, turned off the exit and within a minute was surrounded by state troopers and West Haven police. He had no where to go. He did not exit the car when told to by a gun-drawn state trooper. Within another minute a West Haven policeman or trooper broke the window on the passenger side and shot a taser at him. A few seconds after that he was shot dead with 7 bullets by Trooper Brian North.
Obviously there had been no attempt at de-escalation.
The case was given to a state attorney to see if there are any criminal charges merited.
As of July neither the Governor, they Mayor West Haven, the Police Chief, the City Council nor the Police Commission has criticized any of the police involved or even reported on what in their view happened of the afternoon of January 15.