Bah Family Claims NYPD Covered Up Their Son’s Death; Demands Investigation from DOJ

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Mohamed Bah protest
Hawa Bah, mother of Mohamed Bah, leads a rally on Oct. 7 in lower Manhattan, calling on the Department of Justice to file civil rights charges against the NYPD officers who shot and killed her son Sept. 25, 2012. (Christopher Mathias)

The family of an African man killed by the New York Police Department claim there was a conspiracy to cover up his death. The Huffington Post reports the family of Mohamed Bah, who was killed in an encounter with New York police in 2012, is demanding the Department of Justice file civil rights charges against the officers.

“After over a year and a half of investigating what happened the night Mohamed Bah was killed, I’m here to tell you we can only conclude two things: an execution and a cover-up,” said Debra Cohen, one of the lawyers representing the Bah family.

Bah, a of native of Guinea, worked as a cab driver and was also a student at Borough Manhattan College. His mother said he was depressed and acting erratically, so she called 911 requesting an ambulance. However, police responded instead.

A NYPD Emergency Services Unit arrived in tactical gear. The ESU team broke down part of Bah’s door and attempted to place a camera in his apartment to monitor him. The police claim Bah lunged at them with a knife and they had to shoot him.

But Cohen disputes the NYPD’s report. She claims that police entered the apartment and fired a stun gun. In the confusion, the stun gun struck an officer who thought he had been stabbed. The police unit then fired multiple shots at Bah, killing him. However, according to the autopsy, the seventh shot was fired from close range at a downward trajectory. This is particularly damning, according to Cohen.

“The only logical explanation is that a police officer straddled Mr. Bah while he was still alive and breathing on the ground, bent over and shot him in the head to finish the job — while he was a threat to no one, while he had committed no crime,” Cohen said.

There are some holes in the NYPD’s story. The police took a knife from Bah’s apartment into evidence, but have failed to produce it. At first they said the knife was lost during Hurricane Sandy, but Cohen said they later told her the knife had just been contaminated. Also, none of the officers involved in the incident reported being stabbed.

In 2013, the Bah family filed a $70 million lawsuit against the city of New York, which also sought to change the way police handle people with mental illness. According to The Washington Post, 125 mentally ill people have been killed by police in the first half of 2015.

“My son was Mohamed Bah. He never committed a crime in his life,” said Hawa Bah, Mohamed’s mother. “He was sick. I tried to have an ambulance but the police responded, and I said, ‘I didn’t call the police.’”

The Bah family, their legal team and the families of other Black men killed by the NYPD staged a rally at the Manhattan office of U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara on Tuesday. They were joined by the family of Eric Garner, who was choked to death by NYPD officers.

“I’m here because my son’s case has gotten a lot of attention, but other cases, like Mohamed’s, have not,” said Gwen Carr, Eric Garner’s mother. “All the mothers need to stand together to make sure our children get justice. We need the Department of Justice to do this right thing for our sons.”

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