Two hundred local activists braced the January cold on Tuesday as they stood outside of City Hall chanting “Justice for Mubi!”
Last Wednesday, New Haven teenager Mubarak Soulemane was shot and killed by a state trooper in a high-speed car chase after Soulemane allegedly carjacked a ride-share driver in Norwalk. On Tuesday evening, activists demonstrated outside of New Haven’s City Hall to protest Soulemane’s death. Community organizers and family members of Soulemane spoke to the group before they joined the march to the New Haven Police Station.
“He was our son, he was our brother, he was our nephew,” Alahaji Muhammad Murtala, Soulemane’s uncle, told the crowd. “The community is sad, and this is an unprecedented situation in the annals of our history. As much as we don’t condone the issue of carjacking and whatever allegations they have leveled against him … the boy shouldn’t have died the way he was massacred.”
Norwalk police received reports from AT&T employees around 5 p.m. on Wednesday claiming that 19-year-old Soulemane had engaged in an altercation inside the store and was carrying a knife. According to police, while leaving the store, Soulemane unsuccessfully attempted to steal an iPhone and then exited the store after calling a ride-share service. Police claimed that in the ride-share, Soulemane fought with the driver over his cellphone and slapped the driver, who subsequently pulled over. Soulemane then allegedly stole the vehicle and began travelling down the I-95 north highway. Norwalk police originally began pursuing him, but abandoned the chase.
Dashboard camera footage released on Friday by state police shows state troopers Brian North, Joshua Jackson and Ross Dalling speeding behind Soulemane when he reached Milford. After Soulemane crashed into a civilian car under a bridge in West Haven, the troopers surrounded him, drew their guns and shouted at him to exit the car. According to a report from Fox 61, Soulemane was unable to exit the vehicle as a police cruiser had pinned the door closed. Body camera footage shows Jackson firing his taser at Soulemane after another officer broke down one of the car windows. North then fired seven shots into the driver’s window, hitting Soulemane in the arm, chest and hand, killing him. Soulemane’s knife was later recovered from the vehicle.
According to family members, Soulemane suffered from mental health problems including schizophrenia. His family has demanded the trooper’s indictment or termination.
Prior to the beginning of the protest, New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker walked out of City Hall and greeted Soulemane’s family before inviting the crowd inside so they could stay warm while waiting for the protest to start. When the protest began, one of the speakers thanked Elicker for showing up in support of the family and organizers, before the Mayor joined the crowd in their march to the police station.
“I watched the video, and was outraged by what I saw,” Elicker told the News on Tuesday. “I’m not a law enforcement officer, but I don’t think it takes a law enforcement expert to determine that this should have been handled very differently. It seems quite clear to me that a young man that was alive a week ago should be alive today.”
Elicker emphasised that this was the second incident in a year in which a New Haven resident was shot by law enforcement officers who did not work for the New Haven police department. In April of last year, a Hamden police officer and a Yale police officer fired at Stephanie Washington and Paul Witherspoon, sparking protests in both New Haven and Hamden. Elicker highlighted the need for “mutual agreements” of police practices between New Haven police and neighboring law enforcement agencies and stressed the importance of transparency with the community to “build trust and communication.”
Black Students for Disarmament at Yale (BSDxY) –– a group formed in the wake of the April shooting –– protested alongside local activists and Soulemane’s family in a show of support for the community.
“It was touching to see so many people out there,” Jaelen King ’22, a member of BSDxY, told the News. “Connecticut clearly has a big problem with police brutality across the state, and again this was an outside official shooting at a New Haven resident.”
Outside of City Hall, speakers made brief remarks before directing the crowd toward the police station. Nearly a dozen television cameras filmed the crowd gathered on the City Hall sidewalk as speakers said that Soulemane –– affectionately called “Mubi” by his friends and family –– was a member of their community who did not deserve to die in a “massacre.”
In an interview with the News, Andrew Ntim LAW ’22, who attended the protest, said that Soulemane’s case was just one in a long history of police violence in New Haven and Connecticut, stressing that police killings of black men should stop.
“The challenge is the culture within the police offices and the prosecutors’ agencies and a whole host of other interlocking systems, effectively of suppression and white supremacy that have existed in Connecticut for hundreds of years,” he said in an interview with the News.
Like Ntim, Sarah Locke, who is the campaign manager for New Haven Rep. Rosa DeLauro, came to the protest to advocate for change in policing policies and actions.
“There have been multiple shootings in the past year that have seemed tragic and unwarranted and there doesn’t seem to be enough accountability and enough people coming out and making changes,” Locke said, speaking for herself. “So I think that it’s up to us to make that change because it’s not coming from legislation and it’s not coming from police changing their procedure, so here we are.”
According to a statement from acting Chief State’s Attorney John J. Russotto, an investigation will be conducted by the New London State’s Attorney Michael L. Regan and inspectors from the Division of Criminal Justice. Russotto wrote that he extended his condolences to Soulemane’s family and acknowledged the concerns of deadly force coming from the state trooper.
The shooting has garnered attention from activists across the state, including the Greater New Haven Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the Connecticut branch of the American Civil Liberties Union.
“Car pursuits by police are a dangerous and deadly pandemic in Connecticut,” said Melvin Medina, public policy and advocacy director of ACLU-CT, in a statement. “Did state police follow Connecticut law, which prohibits police from shooting into a moving car unless there is ‘imminent threat of death’ to the police employee shooter or another person?”
Soulemane attended high school at Notre Dame Catholic High School in Fairfield and was enrolled at Gateway Community College in New Haven.
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