Debate

Cop Kills Mentally Ill Man, Mistaking Partner’s Taser For Man’s Knife

The family of Mohamed Bah, the mentally ill man who was shot by New York police last September, is suing the police department with a new claim: that the cop who shot Bah had been accidentally tasered by his fellow officer, which he mistook for a stabbing at Bah’s hand.

In late September of 2012, Hawa Bah, the mother of the 28-year-old Guinean immigrant, called 911 in order to seek an ambulance for her son, as she was concerned for his seemingly deteriorating mental state, the New York Times reported at the time. A police car arrived first, which Hawa Bah was told was standard procedure. Two officers entered Bah’s apartment and a violent altercation occurred, in which the officers shot Bah 10 times after he allegedly began stabbing them with a 13-inch knife.

“He’s stabbing me; shoot him,” one of the officers yelled.

Yesterday, the New York Daily News reported that the family is seeking $70 million in damages from the NYPD, as Bah was wrongfully shot during the melee. The cop who believed he was being stabbed was actually shot with a taser by the other officer.

Randolph McLaughlin, an attorney for Bah's family, said the NYPD knew the truth all along.

“They knew it from the get-go,” McLaughlin told Gothamist. “This is essentially a cover-up.”

The case becomes more disturbing: Gothamist got hold of pictures from the NYPD that show a trail of blood outside of Bah’s apartment, where the police dragged Bah, riddled with bullet wounds, to the ambulance, when he was still alive.

Perhaps most important to the case, the police are allegedly unable to locate the 13-inch knife that they claim Bah was carrying. The department says it was swept away in Hurricane Sandy.

“If I’m slashing cops with a knife, then you take that knife, take DNA samples from it, and secure it," said McLaughlin. “You’re saying it disappeared? Really?"

The string of New York Police Department shootings of the mentally ill — from the Times Square shooting in September to last week’s assault with cane — has prompted those affected to say that police need to be retrained to deal with the mentally unstable.

In an interview with Amy Goodman of The Guardian for Democracy Now! in which Goodman spoke to both Hawa Bah and Elsa Cruz, whose mentally ill husband was killed earlier this year, McLaughlin said that police need a better plan when they come banging down the door of person in crisis.

“In fact, the officers in all of these cases have not been trained in crisis intervention,” McLaughlin said. “They’ve been trained in the use of force — deadly force. And if that’s all the officer has at his disposal, he will use it.”

Sources: New York Daily News (2), New York Times, Gothamist, The Guardian

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