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Court unseals docs in lawsuit of police killing of Black Muslim man

31st Dec 2021
Court unseals  docs in lawsuit of police killing of Black Muslim man

(Poster credit: MvslimInspires/ Facebook)

Elham Asaad Buaras

A federal judge unsealed court documents on December 1 in the lawsuit against the City of Phoenix over the 2017 police killing of a 43-year-old Black disabled Muslim man in Maricopa county, Arizona.

During the initial hearing, the city had requested that the public and media be excluded. Since Muhammad Muhaymin Jnr’s death, all discoveries and depositions have been sealed.

Muslim Advocates, appealed this decision and a court ruled that starting this month some documents would be unsealed. Muslim Advocates say they plan to “dive into the released court records and highlight significant testimony and evidence that illuminates how Phoenix police officers killed Mr Muhaymin and how they misled the public about it.

We have worked tirelessly (alongside local groups including Poder in Action and Black Lives Matter) to try and hold the officers who killed Mr Muhaymin accountable and to support the Muhaymin family in their fight for justice.”

In response to calls for a federal inquiry by Muslim Advocates, the US Department of Justice in July announced an investigation into the City of Phoenix and the Phoenix Police Department

“There are so many questions about how Phoenix police officers killed Muhammad Muhaymin Jr, how they misled the public about it and why the City of Phoenix worked so hard to cover all this up. The release of these documents will hopefully provide the public with at least some answers,” said Muslim Advocates Staff Attorney Sanaa Ansari.

He added that “no officer involved in Mr Muhaymin’s killing has ever been held accountable. By getting the judge to release these important court records, we hope to do our part to let the world know what happened to Mr Muhaymin and finally bring at least some accountability to the officers who mocked and killed him.”

The bodycam footage showed Muhaymin saying “I can’t breathe” several times while held down by at least four Phoenix officers – one of whom put his knee on his neck – for nearly eight minutes as he cried out in pain. Someone called police to say Muhaymin “assaulted” the city employee but later retracted their statement.

The incident started after Muhaymin, who suffered from mental illness, tried to bring his chihuahua, a service dog, into a public bathroom at a community centre and an employee called the police. Minutes later, he was dead.

After looking at Muhaymin’s identification, police found a warrant for his arrest. They ordered him to put down his dog. When he refused, multiple officers restrained him to the ground until he went into medical distress and died. On November 17, the City of Phoenix agreed to pay Muhaymin’s family $5 million.

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Over 120 people attended a landmark conference on the media reporting of Islam and Muslims. It was held jointly by The Muslim News and Society of Editors in London on September 15.

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