Crime History, Feb. 4, 1999: Officers fire 41 shots at unarmed man, sparking unrest throughout NYC

Amadou Diallo

Amadou Diallo

On this day, Feb. 4, in 1999, New York City police officers fire 41 shots at Amadou Diallo, an unarmed West African immigrant, in a fatal shooting that inflamed race relations in the city.

Four plainclothes officers on a stakeout in the Bronx approached Diallo, 22, because they thought he fit the description of a man wanted in a rape case. When Diallo reached for his wallet, the officers opened fire at the immigrant, striking him 19 times in front of his home. The officers, who were white, said they had thought he had a gun. It turned out to be a wallet.

Diallo had no criminal record. He came to America more than two years earlier from Guinea and worked as a street peddler in Manhattan.

The killing set off massive protests across the city, and increased frictions between minority leaders and the administration of Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Critics complained about police brutality, racial profiling and contagious shooting.

The officers were charged with second-degree murder, but were acquitted by a jury in Albany.

— Scott McCabe



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