‘We got out truth,’ Hawa Bah says after win over city in son’s killing

By Seth Galinsky
April 8, 2019

NEW YORK — The city government here announced March 20 that it was dropping its appeal of a civil court decision that found two New York cops liable for the killing of Mohamed Bah, who was emotionally ill, in Harlem in 2012. The city will pay $1.9 million to Bah’s family and attorneys.

The victory is the result of the persistence of Hawa Bah, Mohamed’s mother, and the support she received from working people and other opponents of police brutality.

She has organized protest marches, joined with the mothers of other victims of police brutality in common actions and has spoken out at numerous forums demanding the city admit its responsibility for her son’s death.

“The city and cops fought against us all this time and that’s not right,” Hawa Bah told the Militant March 22. “But we were able to get some of the truth out.”

“We continue to demand that [police detective Edwin] Mateo, and all the other officers involved in Mohamed’s murder, be fired,” Bah said. “My son is dead but the police who are responsible for his death are still collecting their paychecks.”

Mohamed Bah, a cab driver and immigrant from Guinea who went to high school and college here, was shot eight times by the police after his mother called 911 asking for an ambulance and doctor for her son because he was depressed and acting strangely.

“The police showed up at Mohamed’s apartment with heavy guns like they were military,” Bah said. “They broke down his door even though I told them I didn’t call you, I called for an ambulance. Go away!”

The cops claimed the shooting was justified because Mohamed Bah had a 13-inch knife. After cops entered his apartment, they fired Tasers, accidentally hitting officer Mateo, who fell to the floor and shouted, “He’s stabbing me. Shoot him.” The cop later admitted he had never been stabbed.

Mateo also claimed that he shot while on the floor with Bah towering above him, but evidence showed that Bah was shot while on the ground.

The cops claimed key evidence was destroyed when the New York Police Department warehouse was flooded during Hurricane Sandy. In the middle of the trial, the cops announced some of the “missing” items, including the clothes Mohamed Bah was wearing when he was killed, had turned up in NYPD custody.

“It is unforgivable to me that either through malevolence or incompetence this would not have been discovered,” Judge Kevin Castel said, after the announcement.

In November 2017 the jury in Hawa Bah’s civil suit found Mateo guilty of “excessive force” and his supervisor Lt. Michael Licitra guilty of “failure to supervise” and awarded Bah’s family $2.2 million in compensation along with over $1 million in legal fees.

The city’s Law Department appealed the verdict. In dropping the appeal, the city government agreed to pay $1.9 million, which includes legal fees. Law Department spokesmen still claim “the officer acted reasonably.”

“The police should not be first responders for mental health problems, period,” Bah told the Militant. “People with mental sickness need someone who will treat them with love and help them.

“No mother, no family should have this happen to them,” she said. “We have to keep fighting to save lives to make sure that future generations will get liberation.”