Milford, CT – A Connecticut State Police (CSP) trooper who fatally shot an armed carjacking suspect after a high-speed chase in 2020 has been charged with first-degree manslaughter.
CSP Trooper Brian North faces a minimum of five years in prison and a maximum of 20 years behind bars if he is convicted of the charge against him, the Hartford Courant reported.
The series of events leading to the charge against Trooper North began on Jan. 15, 2020, when 19-year-old Mubarak Soulemane allegedly attempted to steal a cellphone from a Norwalk store, then carjacked a Lyft driver’s vehicle, according to the Greenwich Time.
He subsequently led police on a chase down Interstate 95 for nearly 30 miles, reaching speeds of up to 100 miles per hour at times, according to police.
Norwalk police terminated the pursuit at one point because of safety concerns, but CSP resumed the chase after the suspect allegedly crashed into multiple vehicles, NPR reported.
Troopers and a West Haven police officer were able to box the suspect vehicle in off of Exit 43 and swarmed the stolen car, the Hartford Courant reported.
Soulemane refused to comply with their orders to exit the vehicle, NPR reported.
According to the CSP, bodycam footage showed the West Haven police officer smashing out the front passenger side window of the vehicle just before one of the troopers deployed his Taser at Soulemane, according to WVIT.
The jolt was ineffective.
That’s when Trooper North saw the suspect holding a knife, according to state police.
“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,” Trooper North later told investigators, according to NPR. “As a result, I discharged my duty firearm to eliminate the threat.”
The trooper responded by firing his duty pistol through the driver’s side window seven times, fatally wounding Soulemane, according to the Greenwich Time.
Trooper North was subsequently charged with first-degree manslaughter after Inspector General Robert Devlin concluded that none of the officers were in imminent danger when Trooper North shot Soulemane, the Hartford Courant reported.
“Although [Soulemane] held a knife in his right hand, he was not using the knife against them nor presenting any imminent threat to do so,” Inspector Devlin opined, adding that a patrol car was blocking Soulemane’s door and that he wouldn’t have been able to get out of the car to attack them.
“Stated briefly, the investigation establishes that, 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,” Inspector Devlin’s report read, according to WVIT. “Further, any belief that persons were in such danger was not reasonable. I therefore find that North’s use of deadly force was not justified under Connecticut law.”
Trooper North turned himself in to police on April 19 and was released on $50,000 bail, the Hartford Courant reported.
He was stripped of his police powers and placed on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the case, according to the Greenwich Time.
Trooper North was scheduled to be arraigned in Milford Superior Court on Tuesday, according to WVIT.
The Connecticut State Police Union (CSPU) gathered outside the Milford courthouse Tuesday morning to rally in support of Trooper North, the Greenwich Time reported.
The CSPU has denounced Inspector Devlin’s findings and argued Trooper North was forced to make a “split-second decision during these dangerous and rapidly evolving circumstances,” according to the paper.
“We believe Trooper North acted objectively reasonable during this violent encounter and we believe a jury will find reasonable doubt and acquit him of these serious charges,” the union said.
“No Connecticut state trooper ever intends to or has the desire to take the life of another human being,” the CSPU noted, according to the Hartford Courant.
The union said Tuesday’s rally was about more than the charges filed against Trooper North.
“It’s about sending a clear message to the politicians that a police officer’s job is inherently dangerous — and that ALL officers — regardless of the uniform they wear — will defend and support each other,” the CSPU said.
Soulemane’s family began calling for Trooper North’s arrest shortly after the shooting took place, the Hartford Courant reported.
They described the suspect as a community college student who they said was suffering from schizophrenia.
Soulemane’s mother has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the officers involved in the incident, the Greenwich Time reported.