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Tue, 09.02.1975

Amadou Diallo, Student and Police Victim born

Amadou diallo

*Amadou Diallo was born on this date in 1975. He was an immigrant student.

Diallo was born in Liberia, the eldest of four children of relatively prosperous parents. He grew up in Liberia, Guinea, neighboring Togo, and Thailand. Diallo was the eldest of four children born to Kadiatou Diallo and Amadou Saikou Diallo. He attended the International School in Bangkok and the Informatics Computer School in Singapore. He spoke five languages: Fulani, English, French, Spanish, and Thai. And he emigrated to New York from the Republic of Guinea in West Africa in 1996. 

His goal was to get a college degree in computer science. He left behind a note for his mother that said: "The solution is U.S.A. Don't leave my brothers and sisters here." Diallo refused help from his parents and supported himself as a sidewalk vendor, selling video cassettes, gloves, and tube socks. His mother said: "When he came to New York, he was facing hardships. He was doing hard jobs, not because his family could not support him. Because he was independent. He wanted to achieve on his own. And when I see some of his pictures in New York City, he looks so tired. He was just a man who wanted to make it no matter what." 

Shortly after midnight on February 4, 1999, he was sitting on the steps of his apartment building in the Bronx when four plainclothes officers of NYPD's elite Street Crime Unit approached him. Later they would say they thought he was a suspect in a series of neighborhood rapes but subsequently suggested they had identified him as a mugger or drug dealer. They shouted at him to raise his hands. Diallo reportedly reached into his pocket for his wallet. The lead officer yelled, "He's got a gun!" Suddenly Diallo was gunned down in a hail of bullets, 41 rounds in all; some allegedly fired after he went down. Nineteen bullets hit him, piercing his aorta, spine, lungs, and other organs. He died on the spot. 

Officers found no gun on his body, only a black wallet and a shattered pager. Amadou Diallo was 23 years old. He loved Bruce Springsteen because, Amadou's mother said, he represented the dreams of ordinary people. He'd play "Born in the U.S.A." over and over. In one painful irony, Springsteen would later write a song about Amadou's death called "American Skin (41 shots)." It includes the lyrics: "It ain't no secret/No secret my friend/You can get killed just for living in your American skin."

Five days before his murder, he called his mother to tell her that he had raised $9,000 to pay for college courses. He earned his income by selling videotapes, gloves, and hats out on the streets of lower Manhattan. Though he was struggling, the 22-year-old street vendor was on his way to college and was an aspiring computer programmer.

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