Police officers fatally shot an emotionally distressed man eight times in his Harlem apartment after one cop accidentally shot his fellow officer with a Taser, prompting the injured officer to scream "He's stabbing me, shoot him!"
This revelation in the death of 29-year-old Mohamed Bah comes from the NYPD's own shooting incident report completed in December of last year, two months after officers killed Bah, claiming he had lunged at him with a knife.
Former NYPD spokesman Paul Browne made no mention of this crucial detail in describing the scene at Bah's apartment to the New York Times. Emergency Services Unit officers had broken down Bah's door and fired a Taser and a rubber bullet at Bah, despite the fact that Bah's mother, concerned for her son's well being, had called 911 to request an ambulance.
“None of those firings have any visible effect,” Mr. Browne said. “At this point, it’s not a matter of even keeping him from charging; he is now stabbing two E.S.U. officers in their vests, and one of them, as this guy keeps stabbing, yells, ‘He’s stabbing me; shoot him.’ ”
In fact, Sergeant Joseph McCormack had shot Detective Edwin Mateo with a Taser gun in his arm, prompting Mateo's cry. Randolph McLaughlin, an attorney for Bah's family, said that the NYPD knowingly withheld the information from his clients.
"They knew it from the get-go," McLaughlin said. "This is essentially a coverup."
The Manhattan DA also had knowledge of the officers' actions. The DA's office presented evidence to a grand jury two weeks ago, which found that the officers involved were justified in their slaying of Bah.
The scene outside Mohamed Bah's apartment after he was killed by police (NYPD)
"That blows my mind," McLaughlin said of the grand jury's decision. "It calls into question the fairness and fullness of the DA's investigation."
McLaughlin sued the city earlier this fall, but many of the pertinent details in Bah's case were missing until the judge in the case compelled the authorities to turn them over. Photos show that Bah's body was apparently dragged down a set of stairs, and McLaughlin says there is compelling evidence to show that he was alive when this took place.
"This kind of behavior shocks the conscience."
"The case involves tragic circumstances. The Law Department has just received the amended complaint," City attorney Ashley Garman says. "We'll evaluate the matter thoroughly."
Compounding the seeming ineptitude of the NYPD, the knife that police allege Bah, a cab driver and college student, was wielding that night, has been lost. Police say it was swept away in Hurricane Sandy's storm surge.
"If I'm slashing cops with a knife, then you take that knife, take DNA samples from it, and secure it," McLaughlin says. "You're saying it disappeared? Really?"
McLaughlin is suing the City and the officers involved in federal court for $70 million, and says he hopes that the case forces the new mayor and NYPD commissioner to change how it responds to the more than 100,000 calls for emotionally disturbed persons (EDPs) each year.
"The Emergency Services Unit aren't trained mental health professionals. They're trained to use force, whether it's rubber bullets or Tasers," McLaughlin says. "It's a double stigma of race and mental illness. Fear can cause people to kill other people. They were afraid of [Bah], and it resulted in his death."
You can read a copy of the amended complaint below.