Amadou Diallo was a 22-year-old who emigrated from Guinea, West Africa to New York City with hopes of getting an education and a career while working as a street vendor — but his dreams died with him after he was shot to death 41 times inside his building's vestibule on February 4, 1999.
The third episode of the new Netflix docuseries "Trial By Media" focuses on the killing of Diallo, who was unarmed but shot numerous times by four plainclothes police officers. Though the killing of Diallo ultimately resulted in a major change to the New York City Police Department's structure, there was a different outcome for the individual officers who killed Diallo.
The NYPD officers — Sean Carroll, Edward McMellon, Kenneth Boss, and Richard Murphy — all maintain that they believed Diallo was armed when they shot him and were ultimately acquitted of all charges in February 2000, charges ranging from second-degree murder to criminally negligent homicide and reckless endangerment of bystanders, according to a report from The New York Times at the time.
Despite the fact that Diallo was killed in the majority African American borough of the Bronx, the legal defense for the officers was able to move their murder trial to the New York state capital of Albany — more than 150 miles away and with a starkly different racial makeup and a detachment from the NYPD and city issues.
Furthermore, the shooting would draw attention to the NYPD's Street Crime Unit, a massive plainclothes officer unit patrolling high-crime neighborhoods for armed felons, tasked with seizing weapons. The unit had been in existence since 1971 but had tripled in size two years prior to Diallo's killing, according to a 1991 report from The New York Times.
The massive expansion reportedly resulted in a dilution of the unit's previously extensive screening process and a drive to meet unwritten quotas that mandated officers to seize at least one gun a month, the Times reported. All four officers joined the unit after the expansion.
What Happened To The Street Crime Unit?
The Street Crime Unit came under heavy scrutiny following Diallo's killing and ultimately became the focus of a federal civil rights investigation and a class action lawsuit alleging the unit engaged in racial profiling, according to a previous report from The New York Times.
In 2000, a federal investigation from the Department of Justice under then-Attorney General Janet Reno found that the Street Crimes Unit did in fact engage in racial profiling, according to an archived report from the Associated Press. Investigators found that nearly 90 percent of people who were stopped and frisked by unit officers were either black or Latino.
Then-NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly announced in April 2002 that the unit's remaining detectives would be redeployed to other beats within the NYPD — effectively disbanding the unit.
What Happened To The Officers?
All four officers are no longer employed by the NYPD as of 2020, though a few of them would remain with the department for years following their acquittal.
Both Murphy and McMellon applied to work for the New York City Fire Department shortly after the acquittal, according to The New York Post in 2000. However, they remained under an internal investigation until 2001 alongside Carroll and Boss.
On April 27, 2001, Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik announced all four officers would not receive punishment but would be retrained and taken off regular duty until they were deemed fit, ABC News reported at the time. McMellon and Murphy's attorneys told ABC their clients were looking forward to joining the FDNY following the finding and leaving their careers in the NYPD.
Their employment became a point of contention in the FDNY, with Murphy and McMellon's hiring being cited in a hearing about appointing a special monitor to reform the department's hiring practices, the New York Daily News reported.
A 2019 Facebook posting from the FDNY praised McMellon's work in saving the life of a 75-year-old Brooklyn woman who collapsed in her home and went into cardiac arrest.
Carroll remained a police officer until 2005 when he retired following a reassignment to Floyd Bennett Field in southern Brooklyn, according to the New York Times. The remote area is largely abandoned, though the NYPD operates a small airfield there for helicopters.
Boss remained an officer in the NYPD until 2019 when he retired. Boss had his gun returned by Commissioner Raymond Kelly in 2012 and over the protests of Diallo's mother, Kadiatou, the New York Times reported previously. Kelly offered no public explanation for the move.
Boss was promoted to the rank of sergeant in 2015, according to CBS New York.
Kadiatou Diallo moved to reconcile with Boss in 2016, however, after he was honored as "Sergeant of the Year" for his rescue of two stranded boaters from a remote island in Jamaica Bay, the New York Daily News reported. Video of the rescue was posted to Facebook by the Sergeants Benevolent Association, showing Boss rappelling from a helicopter to rescue the stranded people.
"I don't know how or when, but I think it will come," Kadiatou told the Daily News about hoping to meet Boss one day. "I'm at peace. He is out there doing something as a police officer. This is good."
Boss was reportedly receptive to meeting Kadiatou but the shooting "weighed on him" and a meeting ultimately did not take place, one of Boss' previous supervisors told the Daily News in 2019 after Boss filed for retirement.
Attempts to reach the now-former officers for comment were not immediately successful.
"Trial by Media" is now available to stream on Netflix.
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