HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — A Connecticut state trooper who fired seven gunshots into a car and killed a man in 2020 after a high-speed chase has been charged with manslaughter after a more than two-year investigation found the shooting not to be justified, officials said Wednesday.
Trooper Brian North turned himself in Tuesday evening to the state inspector general at the state police barracks in Bethany, state police said. North was released after posting $50,000 bail, was placed on paid administrative leave and his police powers were suspended.
North fatally shot 19-year-old Mubarak Soulemane in January 2020 as Soulemane sat in the driver’s seat of a car in West Haven, where the chase ended and police boxed in the car. North told officials he feared Soulemane was going to attack other officers with a knife.
Soulemane’s family, the NAACP and other groups said North, who is white, should not have shot Soulemane, who was Black, because police had him surrounded and he could not get away. Soulemane had a knife, but he was inside the car by himself and police should have attempted to deescalate the situation, they said.
Soulemane was a community college student who had schizophrenia, his family said.
“The family of Mubarak Soulemane is very happy that, after 2+ years, Trooper Brian North, who murdered Mubarak in West Haven in January 2020, may be brought to justice,” Mark Arons, a lawyer for Soulemane’s family, said in a statement. “It’s a long road ahead. But this is a good day.”
North did not return an email seeking comment. A message was left at a phone listing for him. A message also was sent to his lawyer, Jeffrey Ment. North is scheduled to be arraigned May 3 in Milford Superior Court.
In a report released Wednesday morning, Inspector General Robert Devlin’s office said the shooting was not justified.
“At the time Trooper North fired his weapon, neither he nor any other person was in imminent danger of serious injury or death from a knife attack at the hands of Soulemane,” the report said. “Further, any belief that persons were in such danger was not reasonable.”
The report also includes a lengthy statement by North on the shooting. He said Soulemane was “holding the knife in an aggressive manner” and appeared to be preparing to attack other officers who were outside the car.
“Based on these circumstances, I believed that (the other officers) were at imminent risk of serious physical injury or death, and could have been stabbed in the neck or face as they attempted to enter the vehicle and remove the suspect. As a result, I discharged my duty firearm to eliminate the threat.”
The Connecticut State Police Union said in a statement it was disappointed the inspector general’s office, which investigates police use of deadly force, decided to prosecute North. The union defended North’s actions.