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January 06, 2004

1 WALLET. 4 OFFICERS. 41 BULLETS. $3 MILLION
Real news comes back to haunt.

Isn't it a relief to see such remorse from the four officers in question. Oh, wait ...

(AP) — The city will pay $3 million to the family of Amadou Diallo, the unarmed West African immigrant killed by undercover police in a hail of 41 bullets outside his home five years ago.

“The mayor, the police department and the city deeply regret what occurred and extend their sympathies to the Diallo family,” Michael Cardozo, the city’s chief lawyer, said Tuesday in announcing the settlement.

Diallo was shot to death in the vestibule of his Bronx apartment building on Feb. 4, 1999, by four white officers who said they mistook his wallet for a gun. The officers said they wanted to talk to Diallo because he fit the description of a rape suspect they were seeking.

The officers fired 41 shots, hitting the street vendor from Guinea 19 times and making the killing an international symbol of police brutality. The death also heightened racial tensions in New York and sparked massive protests.

The officers were acquitted of state criminal charges in a February 2000 trial. The Justice Department decided not to bring federal civil rights charges against the officers.

Diallo’s parents, Saikou and Kadiatou, had sought $81 million in their lawsuit against the city. An attorney for the family said the Diallos are “very grateful to finally achieve closure.”

“This is without a doubt the largest settlement in New York for the wrongful death of an unemployed man with no dependents,” said attorney Anthony Gair. “It shows the city and the Bloomberg administration, unlike the prior administration, wanted to make amends.”

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who was elected after the shooting, said he was pleased that an agreement had been reached.

“This is not a substitute for human life,” he said. “But it was a chapter out of our history and I’m just glad that we were able to come to a financial settlement with the family and let’s get on with it.”

Two of the officers from the shooting remain on the force and two are now firefighters.

James Culleton, attorney for former Officer Richard Murphy, said he hoped the settlement “will put all this to rest and everyone can move on with their lives.”

Officer Kenneth Boss, who is on desk duty with no shield or gun, is suing the department for full reinstatement, said his attorney, Steven Brounstein.

“This was a tragic mistake, and a mistake is not a criminal act,” Brounstein said.

“Hopefully an incident like this will not happen again,” said Stephen Worth, attorney for former Officer Edward McMellon.