WEST HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — The family of a 19-year-old carjacking suspect who was shot and killed by State Police has called on prosecutors to lead an impartial investigation into his death.
Mubarak Soulemane, 19, was shot and killed by police a week ago in West Haven after he stole a car at knife-point and led police on a chase down I-95.
“They looked us in the eyes and told us that we should have faith in them,” said Tahir Mohammad, Soulemane’s uncle, after a meeting with the state’s attorneys for Middlesex and New Haven. Mohammad called it a “great meeting.”
“They’re not going to be biased. And we feel pretty confident. My sister feels confident,” said Mohammad, referring to Soulemane’s mother Omo.
Experts consulted by News 8 say there’s no precedent for multiple state’s attorneys to head a single investigation concerning a police-involved shooting.
The Soulemane family and local clergy, including Reverend Dr. Boise Kimber of First Calvary Baptist Church in New Haven, had asked for the involvement of New Haven State’s Attorney Patrick Griffin alongside Middlesex State’s Attorney Michael Gailor.
“We have a relationship with Pat; Pat’s door has been open to us; we’ve built a relationship over the last several years and so we feel comfortable that Pat is going to do the right thing and Mike Gailor will do the right thing.”– Reverend Dr. Boise Kimber of First Calvary Baptist Church in New Haven
The meeting comes one week to the day since State Trooper Brian North opened fire through a closed driver’s side window after a wild police chase that ended in West Haven.
State police said Soulemane was armed with a knife and appeared to be reaching for it when North fired his service weapon.
The teenager’s loved ones say he had schizophrenia, and had been reported missing the day before the incident during a mental health episode.
Initial public outcry led State Police, in a rare move, to cede the evidence collection duties of the investigation to the Division of Criminal Justice.
Wednesday, State Senator Gary Winfield, a Democrat representing the 10th District, joined New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker in calling attention to the circumstances surrounding Soulemane’s death.
“We have had several shootings in this state affecting a population that is always trying to find justice. We’re talking about people with mental issues, people of color.”– State Senator Gary Winfield, (D-West Haven, New Haven)
The family and their supporters had been calling for the U.S. Attorney and the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division to conduct an independent review. But after Wednesday’s meeting with state prosecutors, they want the investigation to start as soon as possible, and will allow the state to take charge.
“We’re going to let them go ahead and do the investigation,” said Soulemane’s uncle.
Trooper North remains on desk duty. Rev. Kimber and the Soulemane family are asking State Police Commissioner James Rovella to take the officer off duty as the investigation continues.