Connecticut State Trooper Is Acquitted in Killing of a Black Teenager

A former Connecticut state trooper was acquitted on Friday of manslaughter and other charges in the fatal shooting of a 19-year-old Black man after a car chase four years ago.

The trooper, Brian D. North, was criminally charged in 2022 in the killing of the teenager, Mubarak Soulemane, on Jan. 15, 2020. The killing occurred after Mr. Soulemane, who had schizophrenia, led state troopers on a chase that ended in West Haven, Conn., where Mr. North, who is white, fired seven shots through the driver’s side window.

The six-person jury hearing the case in Milford found Mr. North not guilty on all charges, including manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide. Mr. North’s lawyers clapped him on the back as the jury foreman announced the verdict.

“This was a difficult case,” Judge H. Gordon Hall of State Superior Court told the jury. “The work that you did was hard, and like I told you in the first place, you won’t ever forget it.”

Mr. North was the first Connecticut law enforcement officer to be charged in a fatal shooting in almost 20 years, The Connecticut Post reported.

The defense centered on a finding that Mr. Soulemane was holding a knife inside the car when Mr. North shot him, according an investigation by the state’s Office of Inspector General, which led to the charges.

Before he was shot, the report said, Mr. Soulemane motioned his arm upward and pointed his knife toward the ceiling of the car. Mr. North fired seven times and then yelled, “Drop the knife!”

Despite Mr. Soulemane’s brandishing of the knife, the inspector general’s office said in its report documenting the investigation, neither Mr. North “nor any other person was in imminent danger of serious injury or death” and the trooper’s “use of deadly force was not justified under Connecticut law.”

The inspector general, Robert Devlin, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Mr. North was charged on the first anniversary of the conviction of Derek Chauvin, a white former Minneapolis police officer who was found guilty of murder in the killing of George Floyd, a Black man. Mr. Chauvin’s conviction paved the way for the case against Mr. North, Mark D. Arons, a lawyer for Mr. Soulemane’s family, said when the charges were filed.

If convicted, Mr. North faced up to 40 years in prison. Frank Riccio, one of Mr. North’s lawyers, told a Connecticut television station that the shooting would haunt Mr. North for the rest of his life.

“He’s still shaken,” Mr. Riccio said. “This is not something that he will ever live down. It was a very traumatic experience.”

Mr. North still faces a $10 million wrongful death lawsuit filed by Mr. Soulemane’s family. In statements made outside the courthouse on Friday, Mr. Arons said it was “a terrible day for everybody inside.” He was flanked by members of Mr. Soulemane’s family, who were present for the verdict.

“We commend the jury for listening to all the evidence and taking it seriously,” Mr. Arons said. “We disagree, obviously, with the result.”

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