Kadiatou Diallo is author of My Heart Will Cross This Ocean: My Story, My Son, Amadou. Amadou was shot to death on February 4, 1999 in a hail of 41 bullets.
The family of Ousmane Zongo, who was gunned down by police on Thursday, was preparing yesterday for burial in his native village in Burkina Faso.
Ousmane Zongo’s uncle in New York joined Reverend Al Sharpton in calling for a special prosecutor to investigate the death.
Sharpton said he was looking into bringing members of Zongo’s family to the United States–tapping on experience in the Amadou Diallo case to navigate through the bureaucratic mazes.
Outrage is mounting in New York following the death of Zongo, who was killed in a scenario strikingly similar to that of Amadou Diallo. Diallo was shot to death on February 4, 1999 in a hail of 41 bullets. Both men came to New York from West Africa in search of a better life. Both were shot dead by police. Both were unarmed. Both had no criminal record.
Ousmane Zongo was 43-years-old. He fixed African artifacts for a living, in the Chelsea section of Manhattan. The New York Times reports that by dozens of accounts, Zongo was a quiet, gentle man who worked tirelessly to send money to his family in Burkina Faso.
Zongo worked in the same building where another company illegally distributed bootleg compact discs. Police raided the building last week.
Zongo was working nearby and he encountered 25-year-old officer Brian Conroy.
Police said Zongo approached Conroy who was wearing plain clothes. For some reason a chase ensued that ended when Zongo ran into a dead end. Conroy then shot him five times. Zongo suffered wounds to the abdomen, chest and upper back and was grazed on the right arm.
Conroy told officers at the scene Zongo reached for his gun but there were no witnesses to confirm this.
The New York Times reported that Zongo’s friends and fellow vendors said it seemed impossible that he could have run afoul of the law. Kodjo Volta, a friend of Ousmane’s said, “He wouldn’t challenge anyone,” and added that he did not even have the nerve to hound customers who owed him money.
The shooting came less than a week after the New York police raided the Harlem apartment of Alberta Spruill. Police burst into her apartment at six in the morning, threw in a flash grenade, and handcuffed the 57-year-old city employee. Then they realized that the tip they had received from a confidential informant was false. Alberta Spruill died from a heart attack a few hours later.
Sharpton has also called for a special prosecutor to investigate her death.
Spruill was buried on Saturday after a funeral that attracted over 3,000 mourners. At the funeral Mayor Michael Bloomberg said “As mayor, I failed to protect someone I was chosen to work with. We all failed–humanity. An innocent human being was taken from us, and our actions caused it.”
Some praised Bloomberg for publicly apologizing but many are still skeptical. Civil rights attorney Norman Siegel said, “Words are easy. Actions and changes are the real test.”
- Kadiatou Diallo, mother of Amadou Diallo killed in 1999 shooting by four New York City police officers. She is the founder of the Amadou Diallo Foundation to promote racial healing through educational programs and is a frequent lecturer. She is the co-author of, My Heart Will Cross This Ocean: My Story, My Son, Amadou.
- Craig Wolff, professor of journalism at Columbia University and a former New York Times reporter. He is the co-author of the book, My Heart Will Cross This Ocean: My Story, My Son, Amadou.