Police fired 41 shots when they killed Amadou Diallo. His mom hopes today's protests will bring change.
Kadiatou Diallo was pained when she heard about the death of black Minneapolis resident George Floyd after he was arrested by four police officers. It was a difficult reminder of two decades earlier, when four white officers opened fire on her son, Amadou Diallo, killing him outside of his apartment building.
"As the mother of Amadou Diallo, having to suffer my loss on February 4, 1999, my wound was open again," she told "CBS This Morning" co-host Gayle King.
Amadou, a 23-year-old immigrant from Guinea, had moved to New York City and was "doing everything right," according to his mother. He rented a modest apartment, working where he could to save money for an education.
"My son was a dreamer," she said. "He always dreamt of going to the U.S. and getting a computer degree."
She recalled the last time she spoke to him, just days before his death on January 31. He had told her he had saved up enough money and was going to college.
"He say, 'Mom… I'm so happy,'" she said.
Days later, a relative called with tragic news — four officers, who said they believed him to look like a rape suspect from a year-old case, opened fire on Amadou outside his home.
A witness said they gave no warning before firing 41 shots, 19 of which hit the 5'6" Amadou. Police said they believed he had been reaching for a gun, but all that was found on his body was a wallet.
"I dropped the phone," Diallo said.
After the call, Diallo said she went to her son's apartment. Video from the incident shows her arriving at the scene, crying out "Amadou!" as she staggered towards his front door.
"I was calling his name because I'm coming, But yet, he's not there," she said. "I entered the vestibule, and I saw all these bullet holes."
She described going into his apartment, picking up Amadou's clothing to "smell him," realizing her that her "child was no longer there."
All four officers were charged with second-degree murder, but a jury later found them not guilty. Diallo said race played a direct factor in his death.
"The problem was reaching for a gun is a perception," she said. "They saw this black man in the vestibule."
Diallo said Amadou had "no criminal record" and had never even gotten so much as a traffic ticket in New York City.
"Retelling this story today is breaking my heart," she said. "Because Amadou was this young, generous person."
Since her son's death, Diallo has dedicated her life to fighting police brutality and improving relations between police and the communities they serve. She said she hoped the current protests nationwide could finally be a transformative moment.
"I really pray and hope that is the case," Diallo said. "Because we are tired. We are exhausted… I went to so many funerals."
When George Floyd called out for his mother during the nearly nine minutes Officer Derek Chauvin had his knee pressed into his neck, Diallo said "every mother heard him."
"Time and time again," she said, police have not been held accountable for excessive force that had led to the deaths of African Americans. Now, Diallo is pleading for the lives of countless more.
"From my heart to the law enforcement community, I want them to really learn how to see our children," she said. "That they look at them and see them as beautiful children… see them as human being, let them live."
For more information on Katiatou Diallo's mission and her work preserving her son's legacy, visit the Amadou Diallo Foundation website.
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