HARTFORD (AP) – A year and a half after the investigation into a police shooting that killed her brother began, Mariyann ââSoulemane says grief and frustration threatens her every day.
Mubarak Soulemane was shot dead in January 2020 following a car chase while sitting in the driver’s seat of a car in West Haven. His relatives and civil rights groups have for months been asking a state prosecutor to complete the investigation and press charges against Private Brian North, who fired seven shots at Soulemane.
âI fight through my tears. It’s psychologically traumatic, âsaid Mariyann ââSoulemane. âIt’s traumatic to have to constantly relive what happened to my brother that day and how the system turns out not to be on our side. I just can’t believe it is taking so long for the verdict to be found for what should be so obvious, obviously a criminal act. “
The investigation takes months longer than other investigations into the fatal shootings by Connecticut officers. The prosecutor’s investigations into five other fatal shootings committed by state officials between July 2019 and April 2020 lasted from six months in three cases to 11 months and 13 months in the other two. All were found to be justified.
The investigation also involves a rare fatal shootout by a Connecticut state soldier. State police normally collect evidence and interview witnesses during shootings by local police and report their findings to state prosecutors. In Soulemane’s case, inspectors from the State Criminal Justice Division – sworn officers who work for state prosecutors – are collecting evidence from Middlesex State Attorney Michael Gailor.
Gailor, who is leading the investigation into Soulemane’s death, declined to comment on the details of the investigation, including why it is taking so long.
âWe’re going to do it as quickly as possible,â Gailor said in an interview Tuesday. âAs soon as we have completed the investigation, we will broadcast it. “
Gailor said he was in regular contact with a lawyer for the Soulemane family to provide updates on the investigation.
Scot X. Esdaile, president of the Connecticut chapter of the NAACP, said the investigation should have been completed months ago, as the shooting was recorded by police cameras which provided evidence clear of what happened. He noted that George Floyd was killed by a Minneapolis police officer in May 2020, and the officer – Derek Chauvin – had previously been tried, convicted and sentenced.
âThe question would be: what takes so long? “,” Said Esdaile. âI know it must be exhausting for families. “
Mark Arons, a lawyer representing the Soulemane family, said although relatives are frustrated, he would rather see a thorough review rather than a rushed review.
“It’s a bit tricky for the state because I think they’re trying to get the right decision on whether or not to prosecute the soldier and that’s a tricky thing,” Arons said. âIf the state prosecutor decides to prosecute a state soldier, of course, there will be a backlash among the state police. It’s always a problem with these lawsuits, just politics.
Soulemane’s family, the NAACP and other groups say North, who is white, should not have shot Soulemane, who was black, as the police had boxed in Soulemane and he could not escape. Soulemane had a knife, but the police should have tried to defuse the situation, they say.
North did not respond to an email requesting comment.
State Police said Soulemane hijacked a vehicle in Norwalk on January 15, 2020, before leading soldiers in a chase down Interstate 95 to West Haven. Officials said Soulemane hit two state police police cars and a civilian’s vehicle before soldiers stopped his vehicle by boxing it. West Haven Police also responded to the scene.
State Police body camera footage shows a West Haven officer smashing the window of the passenger door of the stolen car before another soldier fired a stun gun at Soulemane, which did not work . North then fired his handgun seven times through the driver’s door window when Soulemane showed the knife, state police said.
Soulemane’s family said he was a community college student with schizophrenia.
The NAACP and other groups protested the shooting. At a memorial service for Soulemane days after his death, Reverend Al Sharpton said something about the murder “didn’t smell right” and he vowed to fight for answers for the family.
Mariyann ââSoulemane said she would continue to seek justice for her brother and keep pressure on authorities to complete the investigation and arrest North.
âI feel very defeated, but I am recovering and continue to fight,â she said.