The stories of African-Americans with mental illnesses dying after encounters with police officers seem all too familiar these days. One of these cases involves Mohamed Bah, a man who was killed by the NYPD on Sept. 25, 2012. His mother said Bah was experiencing mental distress and acting erratically so she called 911 for an ambulance. Instead, officers were sent to his Manhattan apartment where they shot him eight times.
Bah's family has called for the Department of Justice to move forward on investigating the case, as progress has been stagnant. At a rally on Tuesday in front of the Department of Justice Southern District, Bah's family was joined with other family members of victims of police violence in New York City, including Gwen Carr, the mother of Eric Garner, and Constance Malcolm, mother of Ramarley Graham.
“My son never committed a crime in his life,” said the mother of Mohamed Bah, according the Justice Committee. “He didn’t do anything wrong and yet the grand jury came back with no indictment. Now the DOJ is the only chance I have for any kind of justice for Mohamed.”
Bah's family lawyer says the officers in the case were attempting to cover up his death.
“After questioning 16 members of the NYPD and sifting through thousands of pages of documents, it has become clear that Mr. Bah was brutally executed on September 25, 2012, while he was in his apartment,” said family attorney Debra Cohen. “Almost immediately after he was shot, the NYPD began a systematic cover-up and attempted to obtain evidence to justify the actions of their officers.”
Accounts from his mother and the police on what happen that day differ greatly.
Police reports state that Bah was wielding a knife and attempted to attack officers after they arrived to his apartment. Bah's mother says that initially two patrol officers arrived, followed by the NYPD's Emergency Services Unit who tried to insert a camera into his apartment, the New York Daily News reports. Bah said officers moved her away from the scene as things escalated.
“I said, ‘Let me go up please. He will open the door for me,’” she told The New York Daily News in 2012. She also questioned why the officers were carrying guns. The family attorneys say they have not been given access to the knife police officers claim he was holding.
Cases like these are unfortunately normal occurrences. This year alone has seen several deaths of others suffering from mental illnesses such as Mathew Ajibade of Georgia in January, Natasha McKenna of Virginia in February and Anthony Hill in March. The families of these victims, like Bah's, are still awaiting justice for their loved ones.
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(Photo: Justice Committee)