Hundreds of people demonstrated outside New Haven City Hall on Tuesday and chanted “Justice for Mubarak!”
The rally, meant to honor 19-year-old Mubarak Soulemane, became a larger rally for justice in police shootings. News broke the day before that a third man had been shot by law enforcement in Connecticut in less than a month.
Kira Ortoleva, a close friend of Soulemane’s, organized the event. She says the timing of his death could not be more heartbreaking.
“He told everyone that 2020 was going to be the year where he made big moves in his life, where he focused on school, where he focused on his work and he helped his family,” Ortoleva says. “And he didn’t even get to make it to February.”
Connecticut State Trooper Brian North shot Soulemane on Wednesday, January 15, after a car chase on Interstate 95 near West Haven. State police released footage from North’s body camera that shows North fired seven times through a car window as Soulemane sat in the driver’s seat. Police said he was armed with a knife.
State police placed Trooper Brian North on desk duty. Some friends and family of Soulemane called for more at the rally.
“What is the need to kill when killing is not the solution?” asked Abdul Rahman Musa, one of Soulemane’s uncles. “Somebody, who has life ahead of him, has been taken out of the world…just like that. And family are left with scar in their heart. Now we need justice and justice should prevail.”
Some of Soulemane’s family met with state police commissioner James Rovella Tuesday morning at a local church. They asked him to take Trooper Brian North off desk duty and send him home until an investigation is over.
Soulemane’s uncle Tahir Muhammad said they also asked for outside oversight of the investigation.
“We have been asking that this case be turned over to the U.S. attorney,” Muhammad said. “We do not trust the state to investigate the state.”
Police shootings are usually investigated by state police in Connecticut. Since a state trooper was involved, state police turned the investigation over to Michael Gailor, a Middlesex state’s attorney in the Division of Criminal Justice. Gailor’s probe will determine whether the use of force was justified.
David McGuire, executive director of the ACLU of Connecticut, said he’d like to see a change in the standards of what constitutes an acceptable use of force.
“In many of these recent cases, we’ve seen police not de-escalating, and in many cases, actually escalating and going to lethal force very quickly,” McGuire said. “Until the legal definition is changed, police will continue to get off scot-free even though they kill people unnecessarily.”
Connecticut State Police did not respond to a request for comment. State police are currently investigating two other fatal police shootings this month – one in Ansonia and one in Waterbury.
While the State’s Attorney’s Office continues to investigate, friends and family of Mubarak Soulemane plan to hold a memorial service on Sunday at First Calvary Baptist Church in New Haven.