Photo by Justin M Farmer / @justinforCT
Mubarak Soulemane was murdered by CT State Police in West Haven in 2020. People all over the nation should be saying his name.
by Stanley Heller
Garnet Oak Contributor
On January 15, 2020, Connecticut State Trooper Brian North ended the life of Mubarak Soulemane by shooting him through a car window seven times. The car Soulemane sat in was stopped and surrounded by state troopers and local police. All the windows were up. Still, in less than a minute Soulemane had been shot dead.
The nation is familiar with the names of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. Mubarak Soulemane’s name should be added to that grim, but honored list.
Soulemane was alleged to have taken a car at knifepoint in Norwalk. He drove onto I-95 where state police pursued him until he took an exit into West Haven. Trooper body cam footage shows that within a minute the car was surrounded by State Police and West Haven police vehicles. A few seconds later a trooper drew his gun and demanded that Soulemane get out of the car. Soulemane remained in the driver’s seat with the windows up. Within a half-minute the trooper told another trooper on the other side of the car to shoot the 19-year-old with a taser. A West Haven police officer broke the passenger-side window and a taser was fired. A few seconds after that Soulemane was shot dead.
There was no reason for officers to think Soulemane had a gun. Once the car was surrounded, he was effectively helpless. He had a steak knife in his lap, but he was plainly not trying to throw it through a closed car window. The police should have talked to Mubarak until he saw the hopelessness of trying to drive away. They could have asked Mubarak to call a parent or a clergyman. There was no attempt at de-escalation. Instead, a gun was drawn and bullets were fired.
Saeed Soulemane, brother of Mubarak, had this to say about his brother, Mubarak:
“Mubarak was a loving smart individual who cared for his loved ones. Mubarak was full of joy. He had friends from all walks of life because his charisma and kind nature attracted everyone. He was so ambitious in every move he made, and I guarantee that he would have gone so far although he battled with mental illness. At the age of 16 he was diagnosed with schizophrenia. But that never deterred him from achieving over a 3.0 GPA at Notre Dame high school in Fairfield.”
The case was brought to State Attorney Michael Gailor and has sat with him now for over 17 months. From elected officials there has been a wall of silence. None have called for North’s dismissal or arrest or made any criticism of the tactics used. West Haven police have made no statement about their involvement in the incident. They have not explained why none of their officers told North to lower his gun.
Contrast this to the official response to George Floyd’s murder in Minneapolis. The city’s mayor, Jacob Frey, took no time in condemning what he saw on video. He connected the incident with race and said, “Being black in America should not be a death sentence.” The policeman who killed Floyd and the three other police officers who stood around during the choking were all fired. Mayor Frey called for arrests, which eventually led to Derek Chauvin, the police officer who strangled George Floyd to death, being found guilty of murder and sentenced to 22.5 years in prison.
There have been several protests in West Haven for Mubarak. One on July 5th saw a woman drive through the protest march on its way back from the police station, clipping several protesters. After protesters got her to stop at a nearby gas station, West Haven police rolled up in force and brought out police dogs to intimidate the crowd. Three protesters were arrested that day in July and another a few days before Christmas. Bail for one in July was set at $10,000. The woman who drove her car through the crowd was allowed to leave with no consequence. Shades of Montgomery, Alabama 1963! When asked for a report on what they did on July 5th, the police have only responded that the matter is under “investigation”.
On June 24th of this year Mubarak would have been 21 years old. Instead of celebrating his birthday, a memorial vigil for him took place at the killing site in West Haven. A few days before the vigil the Connecticut Post published a moving op-ed by Mubarak’s sister, Mariyann. However, Brian North, the trooper who shot Mubarak, is still working. He has not been disciplined in any way. It’s feared that if Soulemane’s killing remains just a Connecticut story, his case will just be ruled a “tragedy” as have so many other police killings of Black men. We need to find a way to get national news sites to report on this injustice again and again, as public pressure appears to be the only way to hold the police to any semblance of accountability.
Stanley Heller is a Western CT DSA member and executive director of Promoting Enduring Peace, a peace, environmental and social justice organization founded in New Haven in 1952. He can be reached at Stanley.firstname.lastname@example.org
For a January 7, 2021 video interview Stanley did with Mark Arons, the attorney for the Soulemane family, click here.