Amadou Diallo’s mother, Kadiatou, held back tears, as she talked with PIX11’s Jennifer Bisram on the 20th-year anniversary of her son’s death.
“I cannot believe it’s been 10 years,” said Kadiatou Diallo. “It’s been a long, long journey, but I’m healing.”
Diallo was just 22 when his life was cut short by a hail of NYPD bullets. He was shot 19 times.
The last time his mother heard his voice was Jan 31, 1999.
“He was calling with the good news, he said ‘mom I finally saved enough money for my dream,’” she remembered. “I was so proud, I didn’t think a couple of days later he would be gone.”
According to officials, plain-clothes officers fired 41 shots at Diallo outside of his Bronx apartment building on Feb. 4, 1999. The officers, who were part of a street crimes unit, mistook him for an armed rape suspect.
“I thought my life was ending, I didn’t think I would recover,” his mom said.
It was one of the first police-involved shootings in NYC that sparked national outrage and conversations about race and police-relations.
NYC streets were flooded with protestors demanding answers, and justice.
“When Amadou was killed, it raised the consciousness of humanity,” she said.
Diallo’s mother turned her sadness into strength, becoming a voice for her son, who was much more than a street vendor.
“Amadou was a young, hardworking man who grew up in different countries and spoke five languages,” his mother said..
The officers involved in the deadly shooting were charged with second-degree murder, but were acquitted at trial.
The Diallo family sued the city and a $3 million settlement was reached.
They started the Amadou Diallou Foundation with that money,
“Through the Amadou Diallo Foundation, we have worked hard to give scholarships to young African students who migrated here,” his mother said.
Twenty years later, PIX11 went back to the 43-precinct, where the officers who were involved worked.
“We’ve come so far,” said Benjamin Gurley, a deputy inspector with the NYPD.
Gurley is now the Commanding Officer at the precinct; he became an officer a year after Amadou Diallo was killed.
“I wasn’t desensitized,” he said.
According to Gurley, crime is down at the precinct and the relationship with the community has gotten better through neighborhood policing programs.
“This community is super strong, super supportive of the police department,” he said. “They will let you know if you’re wrong and I appreciate that, but they will support you on increasing the relationship in a direction of being positive.”
As for racial healing and positive change, Diallo’s mother said we’re not there yet.
“There’s so much confusion and anger going on, I think we have more work to be done,” she said.
When she sees police-involved shootings happening across the country still happening, she relieves her tragedy.
“I have transitioned from grieving to surviving, rebuilding my life and honoring my son,” she said.
Amadou Diallo’s mother will observe the 20th-year anniversary of her son’s death quietly, by being with family and praying.
The fundraiser for the Diallo Foundation that’s usually organized every year around this time will be held around his birthday in September instead.