The family of a Black man strangled to death by police believes the officers’ sentences handed down this week were not harsh enough.
Amadou Koumé, 33, died in 2015 after two French police officers pinned him to the ground, put him in a chokehold and left him outside a Paris bar for more than six minutes. His autopsy report shows he died of “slow mechanical asphyxia.”
The two officers were found guilty of “insufficiently controlled” use of force and leaving the man in a vulnerable position without rendering aid. A supervisor on the scene was found guilty of a “succession of negligence and failings.” All three officers were sentenced on Sept. 20 to 15-month suspended jail terms.
“It is a satisfaction to hear the word guilty in such a case, but the sentence is relatively lenient, so there is a piece of justice that has been done,” said Koumé family lawyer Eddy Arneton.
The father of three suffered from dementia, according to his family. Reports show Koumé was at a bar having a beer in March 2015 when he started talking to himself and raising his voice. A barman called the police reporting someone in a mental health crisis. The officers who responded arrested Koumé. The French rights ombudsman said the officers should have sought medical help for the man.
Arneton said that the officers saw Koumé as an “animal.” They testified that he was making “grunting” noises during the incident. Prosecutors said the officers used necessary and proportionate force to restrain Koumé but were negligent in leaving him on his front.
“It will not bring back Amadou, but his family now knows precisely the circumstances in which he died and also knows that his death was caused by police officers, so it is a step, and we welcome it as such,” Arneton said.
Koumé’s name became a slogan against police brutality. His family had fought for justice since his death. Their fight was amplified by the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd that sent shock waves throughout the globe in 2020. Former Minneapolis Officer Derek Chauvin also restrained Floyd by his neck, pressing a knee into him for moe than nine minutes.
After the Floyd killing, the French government pledged “zero tolerance” for racist policing. They banned chokeholds in 2021 following another local police killing of a Black man, Cédric Chouviat.
“We knew there would be no prison served, but the fact they were judged guilty provides some peace,” Koumé’s older sister Habi told Reuters outside the courtroom.