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Amadou Diallo's mom on George Floyd's last words: "Every mother heard him"

Slain New Yorker's mom reflects on Floyd case
Decades after son's death, Amadou Diallo's mother reflects on Floyd case: "My wound was open again" 04:17

Amadou Diallo, a 23-year-old West African immigrant, was shot and killed in 1999 when New York City police officers fired 41 times outside his apartment building. Since the recent news of George Floyd's death in Minneapolis, his mother, Kadiatou Diallo, told "CBS This Morning" co-host Gayle King she felt like she was reliving what happened to her son all over again.

"As the mother of Amadou Diallo, having to suffer my loss on February 4, 1999, my wound was open again," she said.

Diallo became an activist in the years since Amadou's death, working to improve relations between police and the community. She said George Floyd's heartbreaking last minutes of life, in which he repeatedly said "I can't breathe" and begged for his own mother, struck a chord with her.

"Every mother heard him," when Floyd cried out for her, she said. "We heard George Floyd. We hear him."

In the early morning hours of February 4, 1999, Amadou was standing outside his building when four white plainclothes officers drove by. One of the officers later claimed he thought he matched the general description of a rapist that had been reported a year ago.

A witness claimed they gave no warning when the officers fired over 40 shots, killing Amadou.

The four officers were charged with second-degree murder and later acquitted.

Diallo said her final conversation with her son was a happy one.

"The last time we spoke was on January 31, 1999 ... he say, 'Mom ... I'm so happy,'" she recalled. "He said, 'I have saved enough money, and I'm going to college.'"

Four days later, a relative called.

"They said it was shooting. And then they say it was by the police. I dropped the phone," Diallo said. 

The police said they thought he had been reaching for a gun, but they only found a wallet on him instead. Amadou was unarmed. 

"The problem was reaching for a gun is a perception… they saw this black man in the vestibule," Diallo said.

Amadou "had no criminal record," his mother said, and had "never even had a traffic ticket in New York City." 

"Amadou was this young, generous person," Diallo said, visibly emotional. "Retelling this story today is breaking my heart." 

Watch more of the interview Tuesday, June 9 at 10 p.m. ET/PT on CBS, CBSN, and BET as part of an hour-long special titled "Justice for All," that explores how George Floyd's tragic confrontation with a white Minneapolis police officer ignited a movement demanding an end to the painful history of systemic racism and brutality in police departments across the country.

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