Family of Mohamed Bah demand Mayor de Blasio drop appeal of civil suit

ABDIRAHMAN ALI | 8/9/2018, midnight
Last Wednesday, family and supporters of Mohamed Bah, a New York City resident who was killed by NYPD officers in ...
Hawa Bah Contributed

Last Wednesday, family and supporters of Mohamed Bah, a New York City resident who was killed by NYPD officers in 2012, held a rally on the steps of City Hall, addressing Mayor Bill de Blasio, whose attorneys have fought against the Bah civil suit for years.

Bah died on Sept. 25, 2012, after being shot eight times by NYPD officers inside his apartment. Bah’s mother, Hawa Bah, had come to pay him a visit and had found him in a state of emotional distress—depressed and upset, in need of medical attention and unwilling to go to the hospital.

Hawa Bah call 911 for paramedics. Instead of medical help, however, Emergency Services officers were dispatched to Bah’s apartment. His family maintain that against police protocol and without a warrant, they broke in through the door, guns drawn, and opened fire on Bah.

No charges were brought against the officers involved by the state or criminal justice system or the NYPD. In November 2017, the jury decided in a civil trial for the case that officer Edwin Mateo, who fired the final shot at Bah, was liable for use of excessive force. The jury also decided that the commanding officer, Lt. Michael Licitra, was liable for failure to supervise.

After the verdict, however, Mayor de Blasio’s attorneys filed for qualified immunity, a legal doctrine that protects government officials from civil liability for actions performed in an official capacity, as long as their actions do not violate “clearly established” federal law or constitutional rights.

In May, Judge Kevin Castel upheld the attorneys’ motion for Licitra, but not for Mateo, allowing the jury’s original verdict to stand. The de Blasio administration again challenged this decision in June, filing an appeal of Judge Castel’s ruling and the trial’s verdict, attempting to overturn the decision on Mateo’s use of excessive force.

A ruling in a civil suit cannot result in criminal accountability for the officers, and it does not mandate disciplining by the NYPD. The de Blasio administration’s persistence in challenging this case, which has become an almost six-year long ordeal, has contributed to concerns about what Bah supporters call the administration’s pattern of protecting abusive officers and the NYPD from accountability and scrutiny.

Last Wednesday’s rally opened with chants of “Mayor de Blasio, drop the appeal. Let the Bah family start to heal.” Hawa Bah was present, along with Bah family attorneys, leaders from local faith and community organizations, elected officials and other family members of loved ones killed by the NYPD.

At the rally, Bah gave an emotionally charged address. “I’m here today to call on Mayor de Blasio to stop torturing my family and drop the appeal,” she said. “The mayor is opening a wound that was only starting to heal.”

“Why they’re appealing this case is a mystery to us,” Randolph McLaughlin, a Bah family attorney, stated. “This office is choosing to continue to abuse this family.

A local organizer who spoke stated, “The police treated Mohamed like a criminal because he was Black, an immigrant, Muslim and in emotional and psychological distress.”

Others who spoke were Gwen Carr, mother of Eric Garner; Eric Vassell, father of Saheed Vassell; and Joshua Lopez, nephew of John Collado, all family members of victims of NYPD killings. Also, 34th District Council Member Antonio Reynoso gave a brief speech.

“I understand her sleepless nights for all these years,” said Vassell. “I understand the pain that she’s going through. I understand the hours of grievance that she’s going through.”

The Rev. Rivera gave an impassioned speech, closing the rally with a prayer. “There are passages in our sacred texts of the Bible where our communities were persecuted and the imagery that was used was beasts and dragons that came against this early faith community,” he said. “These communities understood that this imagery of beasts and dragons was really the state.

Some of us here don’t understand why the state or why the mayor or why the president does this, it’s because sometimes the state becomes nothing less than beasts and dragons.”

Rivera led the crowd in a chant: “Fight the beast, fight the dragon.”

After the rally, Bah went into City Hall to present a letter to the mayor. In an interview with the Amsterdam News, she spoke about his response. Though Bah requested a meeting with the mayor, de Blasio last Wednesday sent people to receive her letter and told her they would get back to her.

“It’s very hard to say, but on our part he never communicated with me since my son died,” Bah said. “When we found the verdict, he never said anything. The people who voted for him contacted him many times. He’s turned his back on the people who voted for him.

“He never helped me, never called me, never contacted my family. Even Giuliani, when they shot Amadou Diallo, he tried his best to comfort the family. ... Everyone feels that he’s sending a message to New Yorkers that he’ll protect the officers who are killing us and nothing will happen.”

Although de Blasio continues to fight against this case, Bah remains firm in her cause. “Now I can tell you that we feel better,” she said. “The truth came out. The media, New Yorkers, family and friends and activists, the judge and the jury accepted the truth that came out. What’s happening now is affecting the whole world and New York. [De Blasio] is sending a message about what’s happening in the future.

“We feel bad; we’ll never be the same. We’re traumatized. We never expected such things to happen in America. We’re upset that we have to fight for this truth. We have to make sure Mohamed can believe he has someone to fight for him.

“They covered up all the evidence for almost six years. I can’t believe the mayor would act like this after all these things. The evidence was out in the court. He’s still hiding Saheed Vassell’s information. I didn’t expect our mayor to treat us like this. The people who voted for him now stand up and say fight for the dragon.”

Bah is one of the “Mothers of the Movement,” who can be seen rallying and protesting nationally alongside other women whose children have been slain by police. Those mothers include Constance Malcolm, mother of Ramarley Graham; Valerie Bell, mother of Sean Bell; and Kadiatou Diallo, mother of Amadou Diallo.

“He should drop to the appeal and reach out to the family,” Bah said of New York City’s mayor. “The truth is out; he cannot cover it up. We have to continue to rally. This is just starting.”

Inspired by the continued community support, she concluded, “I’d like to thank everyone who’s given support since they murdered Mohamed in his own home. We’ll continue to fight for justice for Mohamed. I truly appreciate all the help. The mayor should drop the appeal immediately and apologize. He’s done wrong by the family and turned his back on the people who voted for him.

We’ll keep fighting. We won’t give up.”