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Trooper charged in death of Mubarak Soulemane pleads not guilty to manslaughter

Trooper Brian North was in court answering to the charge of Manslaughter in the first degree with a firearm in connection to the 2020 fatal shooting.

MILFORD, Conn. — State Trooper Brian North, the first Connecticut law enforcement officer in 17 years to be arrested following a fatal line of duty shooting, entered a not guilty plea in Milford Superior Court on Thursday for the shooting death of Soulemane Mubarak.

North was in court answering to the charge of manslaughter in the first degree with a firearm in connection to Soulemane's death in West Haven on April 19, 2020.

"Mr. North is entering a plea of not guilty to all charges," said attorney Frank Riccio, a member of North's legal team. "So, a pro forma not guilty plea shall enter a jury election, please."

RELATED: 'We're not finished yet': Family of New Haven teen speaks following state trooper's arrest

North was escorted into the courthouse by his wife, legal team and fellow law enforcement, just ahead of Soulemane's family.

"Good morning, Your Honor, Brian North," were the only words the trooper spoke. The court proceedings lasted two minutes.

The family of Soulemane gathered outside after attorneys for North entered the not guilty plea.

"Justice for Mubarak! Justice for Mubarak," chanted family and friends of Soulemane.

"I want Brian North in jail for killing my son, for massacring my son," said Omo Klusum Mohammed, the victim's mother. "That's what justice is for."

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On January 15, 2020, Soulemane, whose mental health appeared to have deteriorated in the days before he was killed, tried unsuccessfully to steal a cellphone from a store in Norwalk and fled in a car he stole from a Lyft driver.

North fatally shot Soulemane, who was sitting in the driver’s seat of a car in West Haven, where the high-speed chase ended, and police boxed in the car. 

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 de-escalate the situation, they said.

Soulemane was a community college student who had schizophrenia, his family said.

Soulemane Murbarak

A report released by 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.

Given the publicity surrounding this case, might the defense team be concerned about their ability to find an impartial jury?

"It's hard to say at this point," said attorney Riccio. "We will cross that bridge if and when we have to."

In April, when charges were filed, the State Police Union said no Connecticut State trooper ever intends to or has the desire to take the life of another human being. 

The Inspector General said at the time 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 the victim. 

The next step is for all evidence to be presented, analyzed and reviewed. That's why the next hearing, which will be held virtually, is not scheduled until August 2.

"We believe that after the jury or the judge is shown this case, pictures of the truth, it will be clear that this was an execution," said Soulemane's family attorney Sanford Rubenstein.

RELATED: Community leaders react to trooper charged in the death of Mubarak Soulemane

North was placed on paid administrative leave and his police powers were suspended. The next in-person court appearance for North is September 15.

"We don't care what the dates are," said family advocate Rev. Kevin McCall. "What we care about is justice."

The family and their attorneys are hoping for a verdict that will send shock waves across the country "to once and for all change policing culture so that shooting is not the first item on the list, but it's the last resort," said attorney, Mark Arons.

One lawyer involved in the case said the Inspector General, retired judge Robert Devlin, told him it is likely the trial will not get underway for another year or year and a half.

Tony Terzi is a reporter at FOX61 News. He can be reached at tterzi@fox61.com. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.


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