The investigation into the death of a 19-year-old fatally shot in January by a state trooper in West Haven remains ongoing. Mark Arons, the attorney for the family of Mubarak Soulemane, says any reform of police accountability in Connecticut needs to address Soulemane’s death.
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Arons said he’s heard Gov. Ned Lamont and state legislators speak out against racism since George Floyd’s death at the hands of police, but he hasn’t heard the same cries for justice in the fatal police shooting of the Connecticut teenager.
“Gov. Lamont has been fairly vocal about police reform in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, and that’s commendable,” Arons said. “But we’ve heard nothing whatsoever regarding Mubarak Soulemane even though Mubarak was murdered by a state trooper last January.”
Soulemane’s family has continued to speak out about the death and attend protests over police violence.
“It has been over six months since our son and brother was murdered in West Haven on Jan. 15, 2020,” the family members said in a statement issued by Arons. “We call upon the state’s attorney to issue a report finding Connecticut State Trooper Brian North, and the other law enforcement officers with him that night, who did nothing to de-escalate the situation and prevent the murder, responsible and accountable for Mubarak’s death, and bring criminal charges. The time has come.”
Middlesex State’s Attorney Michael Gailor is leading the investigation alongside the Division of Criminal Justice. “While we are striving to complete the investigation as quickly as possible, our primary goal is to ensure that the investigation is thorough and complete,” Gailor said in an email.
In January, Soulemane, whose family said he was diagnosed with schizophrenia, stole a car in Norwalk while carrying a knife after trying to obtain a cellphone from an AT&T store, according to police records. Norwalk police suspended the pursuit, but then state police got involved.
Body camera footage shows North firing multiple times into the stopped car after another officer broke a window to tase Soulemane. All the other windows remained rolled up, and it did not appear that Soulemane was trying to flee the vehicle.
Arons said a police report details that one of the officers on the car’s passenger side said, “he’s reaching” after Soulemane was tased.
“It looks like Mubarak moved around a little bit after the Taser was deployed, but you know, someone who gets tased is going to be moving around a little bit,” Arons said.
According to Arons, Soulemane’s brother reported him missing to police more than a day before the incident and shooting, and he was concerned about finding his brother.
“He posed no threat with anyone, so the question has always been, why shoot him seven times? There’s no reason to shoot him,” Arons said. “There never was a reason to shoot him, and the police need to be held accountable and criminal charges need to be levied.”
The body camera footage was released within 48 hours, which complies with requirements of a 2019 police accountability and transparency measure.
Arons had a former sergeant in the Los Angeles Police Department, Sheryl Dorsey, review the footage.
“It is my professional opinion that the lethal force used by [Connecticut] State Trooper Brian North was unnecessary, excessive and a violation of policy, which allows for deadly force in the immediate defense of life (I.D.O.L.),” Dorsey said in a statement. “At the time shots were fired, there was no immediate defense of life (the officer or others) as Mr. Soulemane did not have the ability to harm any of the officers within close proximity to his vehicle.”
In February, Soulemane’s family filed a $10 million wrongful death lawsuit against the West Haven Police Department and state police.
Soulemane’s mother, sister and other family members have continued to protest since their loved one's death while they await the results of the investigation.