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NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) — The Rev. Al Sharpton vowed Sunday to fight for answers for the family of a 19-year-old Connecticut man killed by a state trooper earlier this month.
”You don’t have a right to take away his life, and if you do, we have an obligation to stand up and question what happened,” the 65-year-old civil rights activist said at a memorial service Sunday for Mubarak Soulemane at the First Calvary Baptist Church in New Haven, Connecticut.
Soulemane's relatives, friends and high school classmates attended. His uncle, Tahir Muhammad, said Sunday police “never took the time investigate that he was a son, brother, uncle ... a human being.”
State police said Soulemane tried to steal a cellphone and then carjacked a vehicle in Norwalk on Jan. 15 before leading troopers on a chase on Interstate 95 into West Haven. Officials said Soulemane struck two state police cruisers and a civilian's vehicle before troopers stopped his vehicle by boxing it in.
Recordings from state police body cameras show troopers surrounding Soulemane's vehicle and smashing out the passenger door window before shooting him with a stun gun, which didn't work. Trooper Brian North then fired his handgun seven times through the driver's door window when Soulemane displayed a knife, state police said.
“Something about this doesn’t smell right to me,” Sharpton said Sunday.
Relatives, clergy and civil rights advocates have called on federal authorities to investigate and state police to improve training on how to de-escalate tense situations. It was the third fatal shooting by police in Connecticut since the new year began.
Soulemane's family said he was a community college student who had mental health problems. State court records show he had two pending criminal cases.
Investigators with the chief state's attorney's office recently took command of the investigation from state police.
North was placed on administrative duty in accordance with protocols when officers are involved in a shooting. He also cannot have any interactions with the public and is not allowed to drive a marked police vehicle, per conditions worked out between a coalition of pastors representing the family and James Rovella, commissioner of the state Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection, which oversees state police.
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