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On this date in 1966, Abner Louima was born. He is a Black Haitian-American electrical engineer, police brutality survivor, and activist.
Abner Louima was born and raised in Thomassin, a small community in Haiti. He emigrated to the United States in 1991, married, and had one child. In 1997, he was living in Brooklyn with his family. He had been trained as an electrical engineer in Haiti, but Louima could not get a position related to his education in New York. He worked as a security guard in a water and sewage plant in the Flatlands area of Brooklyn. By 1997, he was a naturalized citizen of the United States.
On August 9, 1997, the police were called, and several officers from the 70th Precinct were dispatched to the scene where Louima and other men had gotten involved in a fight between two females in Club Rendez-Vous in East Flatbush, Brooklyn. Police, supporters, and various people became involved in the fight outside the club. Officers Justin Volpe, Charles Schwarz, Thomas Bruder, Thomas Wiese, and others responded to the scene. In the ongoing altercation, Volpe said that Louima had attacked him. Louima was charged with disorderly conduct, obstructing government administration, and resisting arrest.
He was assaulted, brutalized, and sexually abused after he was arrested. His injuries were so severe as to require three major surgeries. Louima sued and was represented by attorney Sanford Rubenstein in a subsequent civil suit against the City of New York; this was settled for $8.75 million on July 30, 2001, the largest police brutality settlement in New York City history. After legal fees, Louima collected approximately $5.8 million. At first, the police attempted to cover up the attack. Later, Volpe admitted his accusation about Louima being his assailant was fabricated. Officers responsible for the attack were charged and convicted in federal court, and one still serves a 30-year sentence in federal prison.
In 2003, Louima visited his family, still living in Haiti. He discussed establishing the Abner Louima Foundation, a nonprofit organization to raise additional money to build a community center and hospital in Haiti. Louima indicated he had plans to use his money and donations to open community centers in Haiti, New York, and Florida for Haitians and others seeking legal, financial, or other aid. Louima paid the school tuition for 14 poor children in Thomassin, the small community where he grew up. He has established the Abner Louima Foundation to establish a hospital and community center in Haiti, Florida, and New York for Haitian residents, immigrants, and others in need.
During his visit to Haiti, he met with the President of Haiti, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a former priest Louima knew from his school days. In a rare interview, Louima said he is convinced he can make a difference in his impoverished homeland: "Maybe God saved my life for a reason; I believe in doing the right thing." In 2007, Louima resided in Miami Lakes, Florida, with his wife Micheline and their three children. He owns homes in suburban Miami and Port-au-Prince and several investment properties in Florida.
Louima has since participated in anti-police brutality protests with Al Sharpton, notably over the shooting death of Sean Bell in 2006 and on August 9, 2007, exactly ten years after his attack. On the latter date, Louima was honored in New York City by the National Action Network at the House of Justice for his resolve and for helping others who have suffered from police brutality.