- Hawa Bah
mother of Mohamed Bah, who was shot dead by New York City police on September 25, 2012. She is visiting New York from her native country of Guinea.
- Randolph McLaughlin
longtime civil rights attorney who represents the Bah and Cruz families. He is with the law firm Newman Ferrara and is co-chair of their civil rights practice group. He, along with Mayo Bartlett, represented the family of Kenneth Chamberlain Sr., the White Plains, New York, Marine veteran who was shot dead by police in 2011 in his home after he accidentally set off his medical alert pendant early in the morning.
As the October 22nd Coalition to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation holds protests in several cities today, we bring you the shocking story of Mohamed Bah, a 28-year-old college student from the African nation of Guinea. He was shot dead by New York City police officers on September 25, 2012. Police arrived at Mohamed Bah’s apartment after his mother, Hawa Bah, called 911 because she thought he was depressed, and wanted an ambulance to take him to the hospital. Police claimed he lunged at officers with a knife. But many questions remain unanswered. We are joined by Hawa and her attorneys, Mayo Bartlett and Randolph McLaughlin, both longtime civil rights attorneys.
Click here to watch part 2 of this segment about a similar case involving the police murder of a bipolar Puerto Rican artist whose wife called 911 for medical help.
AMY GOODMAN: As the October 22nd Coalition to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation holds protests in several cities today, we bring you a shocking story about two eerily similar police killings in the New York area. In both cases, a family member called 911 seeking help dealing with a distressed loved one. Both cases ended with the police killing the man they were called on to help.
Mohamed Bah was shot dead by New York City police officers on September 25th, 2012. Bah was a 28-year-old college student from the African nation of Guinea. Samuel Cruz was shot dead by police in New Rochelle, New York, on May 26, 2013. Cruz was 48 years old. He was an artist from Puerto Rico. In both cases, police say the men were shot after they lunged at officers with a knife. But many questions remain unanswered.
Police arrived at Mohamed Bah’s apartment after his mother, Hawa Bah, called 911 because she thought he was depressed, and she wanted an ambulance to take him to the hospital. In Samuel Cruz’s case, his wife, Elsa, called 911 because she was worried her husband had stopped taking medication for his schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
Both women join us in a Democracy Now! exclusive today. The Cruz family is filing a lawsuit today against the New Rochelle Police Department. The Bah family has already sued the NYPD. We’realso joined by the attorneys for both families, Mayo Bartlett and Randolph McLaughlin, both longtime civil rights attorneys who also represented the family of Kenneth Chamberlain, the White Plains, New York, Marine veteran who was shot dead by police in 2011 in his home after he accidentally set off his medical alert pendant early in the morning.
We invited representatives from both the New York City and New Rochelle police departments to join us today.
We welcome you all to Democracy Now! Randolph McLaughlin, can you just give us a summary of the case of Mohamed Bah?
RANDOLPH McLAUGHLIN: In Mohamed Bah’s case, his mother called 911 hoping to get an ambulance to come and take her son to the hospital. Two officers arrived, and she explained to them, "I didn’t call the police; I wanted an ambulance." And they explained to her that "The way it works in New York is we come first and check on the situation, and then we’ll get the ambulance." She and the two officers went upstairs to the fifth floor in the apartment building, and the officers knocked on Mr. Bah’s door. He opened the door. And when he saw the officers, he said, "I didn’t call you. You’ve got the wrong door." And he tried to shut the door. Instead, they forced their way in, and there was a little struggle back and forth with the door. But at no time did he yell at them. At no time did he brandish a weapon. He shut the door and locked it.
The officers then told Mrs. Bah and her colleagues to go back outside. So they left the building, assuming that the officers would help to get an ambulance. And as she stood outside, she saw more and more officers coming in with shields, riot gear, all sorts of weapons, guns, tasers. There were so many officers in the hallway at one point that you literally couldn’t get by them. They commandeered the entire building. They wouldn’t let anyone in, wouldn’t let anyone out. Over about an hour of yelling, banging on the door, putting things under the door like a mirror of some sort, they broke the door down, tasered, beanbagged and shot him eight times. The last bullet went into his head, and had stippling around the entry wound, which says that that shot, which probably took his life, was at close range.
AMY GOODMAN: Hawa Bah, you are Mohamed’s mother.
HAWA BAH: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: You had just come from Guinea to visit with your son?
HAWA BAH: Yes. I usually sent to come here. I can come every year to see and visit him. But in 2010, I feel like he in college, he big, he need a marriage. So I say, "OK, when I go this year, I’m not going—I’m not coming back here. You’ve got to go and marry, get married." He say, "OK, Mommy." He say, "I want to get married, because I know you—it’s on your heart, then I will meet you there." It’s 2011, I have not come. But 2012, close into [inaudible] after he call me: "Mommy, are you coming this year?" I say, "Yes, I will come this year." Then we still talking, talking, until I arrive here. I arrive here. He say—the next day I will come in, he called—I call him. He say, "OK, Mommy, I’m so happy you’re coming. You’ll meet me to the airport." And I didn’t meet him to the airport. I call him. He say, "OK, Mommy, you’ll meet me downstair. I’m sorry. I apologize." I meet him downstair. We talk a little bit. He take the iPhone and take my address, my sister address. We walk upstairs. We talk. He tell me many things. It don’t make no sense for me—to me. And he was wound already.
AMY GOODMAN: He had a wound?
HAWA BAH: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: Above his eye?
HAWA BAH: Yes. He told me that, "Mommy, I’ve lost so much blood." He say, "I lost so much blood." "Boy, you are not talking good." If he talk a little bit, he can bend the head like this, and he can stop talking. And he will lose weight. He lose a lot of weight. He never shave self. He got sick. And he—he limping. I say, "Oh." Then he keep a razor blade. He say, "Mommy, you take out the stitches for me." I took—I can’t make [inaudible]. I say, "No, we got to go to the hospital." He say, "No, Mommy, I’m just tired. I want to rest. I don’t want to go to the hospital." I say, "No, boy, you cannot keep yourself like this in the house. You’ve got to go to the hospital." On the 28th, [inaudible] if you remember, 2010, we celebrate my birthday to Staten Island and Statue of Liberty. He was so happy. He say, "I just want to rest."
Then we talk a lot, but it don’t make sense to me what he talking. Then he say, "Today you are not sleep here. You go home day after tomorrow. You cook some [inaudible] and meat you bring for me." I say, "OK." I say, "Then stay safe. I will try to wake you up. I’m so proud of you. You’re a prince." "Mother, Mommy, I love you. I miss you. I will miss you so much. I love you." Then he tried to wear his shoes and took me to the—to the cab, look for a cab for me. He walked me, took me to a place where I can took the cab. Boy, I look at my son. I couldn’t believe I met him. As soon I got in the car, he lift a hand like this. Boy, he can’t talk much. He can say he have a—he say he’s not—he’s not feeling good.
Then I call my friend. I say, "Oh." I call her and cry. I say, "I can’t go to." I say, "Mohamed is sick." I say, "Mohamed is sick. You can’t believe it. He not even talking correctly." I say, "Oh, [inaudible]." I say, "Can help me talking to him? They will take him to the hospital." He say, "If you feel like he depressed?" I say, "I don’t know, because he wound already, and he told me"—
AMY GOODMAN: He’s wounded already.
HAWA BAH: Yes. And he told me he lost a lot of blood. And he told me about seven days he will [inaudible] in the house, so which mean I really don’t know what’s going on. I want to take him to the hospital. He say, "OK, let me call some adult help here. They can come talk to him. Is he getting upset to go to the hospital?" He give me the number—she give me the number, and she call also. And the people say, "OK, if he think like this and he wounded already, we cannot take him to depression place. We got to take him to the big hospital first. You should call 911, will take him to the big hospital. They do general checkups, don’t know where to wound him—how he wound and how he limping, what make him lost weight, before so that they can giving him treatment." But I didn’t call like that. I go to bed. I didn’t sleep good.
In the morning again, I wake up. He call me when I was showering. He say, "Oh, Mommy, you see my channel?" I say, "What channel?" He say, "Observation is my channel. Do you look at my people?" I say, "Oh, God. There’s no [inaudible]." Then I call a friend of me who he stay until he got the apartment. I say, "Please." I say, "I came yesterday. Mohamed’s sick." I say, "Go to the apartment and talk to him. Let he go to the hospital. He’s not feeling good at all." And the man know Mohamed love him so much. He go knock the door and open—he open the door. He look at him. He say, "No, I’m not going to the hospital." But he weaker, and he’s not feeling good. Then the people say, "No, come. We should go to the hospital. You see how you look? You’re feeling bad like this. Let’s go to the hospital." He say, "No, I don’t want to go to the hospital. I just want to rest." They say, "Boy, how long you can rest like this alone?"
Then they came outside and called me. He say, "Boy, Madame Bah, how can this boy get sick like that?" Then they cry. I say, "Boy, don’t cry." I say, "If you cry like this, I can feel so bad. I don’t—I just arrived yesterday. I met him in the condition. I want to take him to the hospital." I say, "Then what you do—he didn’t upset?" He say, "No." I say, "Then call the ambulance. Please take him to the hospital for me. Since yesterday, the people advise me that. But I was trying the last chance with you to see if he can upset." He say, "Oh, if I call an ambulance, come here. We can call the ambulance together." Then I move from my place, come meet him downstair. We call the ambulance." When we call the ambulance—
AMY GOODMAN: So you called 911?
HAWA BAH: Yeah, the son called the 911. Then I said, "I want an ambulance. My son’s sick. I want to take him to the hospital." Then it was the end of the life of my son. Those men arrive.
AMY GOODMAN: The police arrived.
HAWA BAH: Yeah, police arrive. When I saw the police car, I see him, I say, "Hey, I don’t call police. I call an ambulance." I say, "I don’t call police." He say, "No, ma’am, don’t worry. In New York here, when you call an ambulance, we will come first. We will look at the person and call an ambulance." He said, "Don’t worry, he will be OK." We walk upstairs. When we walk upstairs, me and he and my other two girls who walk upstairs, he knock the door. He didn’t tell Mohamed, "Your mom say go to the hospital." He say—just say, "Mohamed, open the door. I came for you."
AMY GOODMAN: So the police said, "Open the door." They didn’t let them know that you were there.
HAWA BAH: No.
AMY GOODMAN: So he had no idea that you had called them.
HAWA BAH: No, no. Then, when he knock the door, he say, "I came for you." Mohamed opened the door and look at him. He say, "Police?" Because I know it’s a police because of the car, but he—as soon he look at him, he say, "Is it police? I don’t call you. Go away. I don’t—I no call police. You knock on the wrong door." Then, suddenly, the man wanted to force and enter in the room, in the apartment. He push. Mohamed push. He put his foot. Mohamed just pushed the door and locked the door, go to bed. Now [inaudible] he came out of [inaudible]. They didn’t know. He just look behind like this. He bend his head like this on the corner. Then he started paging his phone like this. I don’t—I didn’t hear what he say. I was standing there looking at him. I lifted my hand, wanted to talk to Mohamed. He said, "No, don’t worry. I will take care. He will be OK."
Then is a lady came with the white clothes. He got a—he got the hospitals, and she got the hospitals. And he say, "OK, there’s the ambulance lady. Go downstairs. He will be OK. We’ll take him there. We’ll go to the hospital." Since it’s fifth floor is a step—and we never think something can be wrong, different things. We just thinking he was talking to him. We going downstairs, before we reached the stair—
AMY GOODMAN: So you went downstairs.
HAWA BAH: Yeah, we went downstairs. Then the two officer in the same uniform meet us. We go up to third floor. Then those people meet us. They say, "No, ma’am, go downstairs. We will take him to the—we’ll help you to take him to the hospital. He will be OK." Then four of them be upstairs. When they be upstairs, the first one who came knock the door, he came meet me right on the door to the apartment. He say, "No, ma’am, come outside. We’ll take him to the hospital. He will be OK."
Then he say, "Who you know here?" I say, "What do you mean, who I know?" He say, "No. I ask you who you know, wider family." I say, "This is my family friends, and I have another family in Queens, and his sister working to D.C." He say, "OK, I want to know what your work." I tell him my work. Then he say to the other people, how they related to Mohamed. We thought he filling form for the hospital. Each person explain to him how they related—relative friends in neighborhood in Guinea. Then he signed the form, signed the paper. He writed the paper, and he go upstairs.
Then he come back. He say, "Mohamed don’t want to open the door." I say, "If Mohamed don’t want to open the door, let me talk to him. He didn’t know I’m here. If he know I’m here, he will open the door." As soon I tell him that—he’s stooding right there—I see a man who have a shield coming. I say, "Hey, where that man going?" I say, "Don’t broke his door. I will talk to him; he will open the door." That man ran, go upstairs.
AMY GOODMAN: These men are police officers.
HAWA BAH: I don’t know. He was just having the big shield like this.
AMY GOODMAN: Uh-huh. A big—
RANDOLPH McLAUGHLIN: Shield.
AMY GOODMAN: Shield, ah.
HAWA BAH: Shield, yes, yes. And after that one, I see a man coming again. He have a long [inaudible], like two-meter [inaudible], something like mirror and knot, big knot like this. I feel like the knot is a hammer. They want to broke in the door. I say, "Please, don’t broke the door and hurt my son. If he don’t want to open the door, I will talk to him, and he will open the door." He don’t listen to me. He just walk up. Then, third one, I see officer coming, having a gun, holding the gun like this on his—
AMY GOODMAN: Holding his gun at his waist.
HAWA BAH: Yeah, like they rushing. I say, "Please, I just arrive yesterday. My son’s sick. I want to take him to the best hospital in America. I can pay. Don’t worry about that. Please help me to talk to him. He will open the door." Finally, when all of them reach upstairs, he came outside and said, "Mohamed don’t want to open the door." Then he rush upstair again, come back. He say, "Oh, we open the door, is a couple of shoot." I say, "What do you mean, couple of shoot? You shoot my son?" He say, "No, it’s a little scratch." He say he will be OK.
Well, before he arrive, I feel so bad. My back and my stomach all hurt me. I say, [inaudible]. I sent two people, when he finally fill the form. I say, "Go tell this man my son don’t know I’m here. Let me talk to him. He will open the door." They don’t let the two girls go in. Then, the other girl, when I feel so bad, I say, "I think those people are killing"—I say, "I feel so bad. I got pain all over my body." I say, "Please talk to those people. They should not hurt my son. If he’s opening the door, I will talk to him. He will open the door."
Then he run to come. He say, "Oh, we open the door, but it’s a scratch, a little scratch." I say, what you—let couple of shot, and a little scratch. I say, "What do you mean? You shoot my son?" He say, "No, it’s a little scratch. Boy, he will be OK." Then he run going upstair. He meet his two friends again. Then they come. Three of them started smoking, looking at the [inaudible]. They are looking at also the place where he point to me. I say, "Hey, look." I say, "Look, those people are smoking, like they’re not coming to help somebody who’s sick." Then, after that one, the other man put those tape, the yellow—
AMY GOODMAN: The crime scene tape, the yellow tape.
HAWA BAH: Yeah, I say—I say, "[inaudible], when those people put this tape, it’s something dangerous." Say, "Ma’am, you are so worried. Those people, they are officers." They come—and he say, "I’m coming. I’m coming." Then he go upstairs, coming back. Then he was doing CPR. They was doing CPR for my son. I say, "What those people are doing CPR to my son?" Then I want to run, rush go to the—in the ambulance, because he always coming and say, "How many people are there?" We say, "Five." Then he go upstairs again. "How many people?" when he come back. We say, "Five." Then we wanted to go in the ambulance. Then the lady—
AMY GOODMAN: How long did it take before—when you heard the shots to when the ambulance came?
HAWA BAH: We didn’t hear the shot. It’s the people who upstairs on the other building hear the shot. They were in third floor; we were in the—on the soil. We didn’t hear it.
AMY GOODMAN: On the ground.
HAWA BAH: On the ground, yes. Then, boy, it take a time when he tell me he open the door and is a little of scratch, couple of shot, it’s a little scratch. I say, "You shoot my son?" He say, "No." That take a while time. But for them to reach there and got that shot, that one didn’t take a time. But for them to come outside take a time. So I was thinking that you’re talking to him for them to walk and come outside. Then I see them with CPR. I say, "But you are doing with my son, and you’re doing CPR?"
AMY GOODMAN: Randolph McLaughlin, in this period, from the time of the shot to the time when he was taken away, he was dead at that point?
RANDOLPH McLAUGHLIN: Well, it’s not clear. When he came out in this—on a stretcher, what Mrs. Bah is saying is that the ambulance attendants were doing CPR on him. Now, you don’t do CPR on a person who’s dead. But what’s really tragic here is the—first, the shooting, but then there were photographs and a witness who said that they literally dragged his body down the stairs, and there was blood smeared throughout the floors. And the police came the next day to clean up the blood that they had just smeared on the floors. They treated him like he was a criminal. And the tragedy here is, he didn’t do anything wrong. He was in his home. The call was for medical attention. There’s absolutely no excuse as to why they didn’t allow his mother to speak to him.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Randy McLaughlin, who is the attorney for Hawa Bah. Her son, Mohamed Bah, on September 25th, 2012, she felt he wasn’t doing well, he wasn’t making sense, he had an injury above his eye, and he was limping, and she called 911 to ask for an ambulance to come to pick him up. She had just come from Guinea. Within an hour or so, from the period that you called them and they came to the period when he was brought downstairs, the police had shot him, and he died. This is Democracy Now! When we come back, we’re going to hear the case of Samuel Cruz. It was his wife, Elsa Cruz, who called the police for help. And you’ll find out what happened. Stay with us.