Civil rights advocates on Thursday released body camera footage showing the death of Muhammad Muhaymin, Jr. in Phoenix Police Department custody in 2017.
Warning: the footage is graphic and difficult to watch.
“Muhaymin was killed by officers after he tried to bring his service dog into the bathroom of a community center in Maricopa County in Arizona,” a statement by Muslim Advocates and Poder in Action reads. “Despite being unarmed and non-violent, Muhaymin was pinned down by four Phoenix police officers with their knees on his neck, head and body, leading to his brutal death.”
The footage, never public until now, contains clear audio of an officer mocking Muhaymin’s Islamic faith.
Just after the six minute mark, Muhaymin can be heard saying, “Please, Allah. Please, Allah.”
An off-camera officer responds: “Allah? He’s not going to help you right now.” The officer told Muhaymin to “relax” and to “stop resisting.”
Allah is the Arabic word for God. The officer’s comments came at about 6:11 into the footage above.
Throughout the struggle prior to and following the religious insult, Muhaymin repeatedly screams to the four police officers who were on top of his legs and back. One of the officers applied a knee to Muhaymin’s head and neck.
“I cannot believe this,” he says at one point in the video. “I cannot believe this man. Officer!”
Officers continue to try and subdue Muhaymin–eventually pinning him down.
“I can’t breathe! I can’t breathe!” he yells out several times over. “Please help me. Please.”
“The city of Phoenix and the Phoenix police targeted my brother for his race, they mocked him for his religion and disability, and then brutally killed him,” Muhaymin’s sister Mussalina Muhaymin said in the statement accompanying the video footage of her brother’s death.
“[He] was a man—a man with a family who loved him,” she continued. “He was attacked and suffocated by Phoenix police in a wanton, malicious and depraved manner for nearly eight minutes as he cried ‘I can’t breathe’ until his death. The city and county have taken no action to hold the responsible officers accountable for the brutal murder.”
According to CNN, which apparently reviewed additional footage of his death, Muhaymin’s words and screams give way to unintelligible murmurs. Eventually his body folds and becomes inert, then the noises stop altogether, and he vomits. Moments later an officer announces that the Muslim man is “dead.”
The release of the latest footage prompted civil rights advocates for the Muslim and disabled communities–as well as police accountability advocates–to renew a pressure campaign against Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego and Maricopa County Attorney Allister Adel.
Muslim Advocates and Poder in Action want the four officers involved fired, charged and arrested–as well as the appointment of a special prosecutor. To date, each of the officers involved in Muhaymin’s death is still and the force and none have been disciplined whatsoever.
“Some of the last words Muhaymin ever heard were the police mocking his desperate plea to God as they forced the life out of his body,” said Muslim Advocates Public Advocacy Director Scott Simpson. “It’s indefensible that Mayor Gallego and County Attorney Adel allow these officers to continue policing communities in Phoenix. They were not in charge when this murder happened but they’re in charge now. This new footage makes clear that these officers must be fired, charged and arrested immediately.”
Poder in Action’s Executive Director Viri Hernandez cast the issue as a matter of public safety.
“These officers are all actively policing in Phoenix with no accountability and no oversight,” she said. “How can people of color, Muslims and the disabled trust that they’ll be protected by Mayor Gallego and County Attorney Adel when they’re bending over backwards to protect these violent officers?”
City officials and the Phoenix Police Department have been consistently tight-lipped about Muhaymin’s death–but earlier this year a lawyer representing the officers accused one of the attorneys representing Muhaymin’s sister of using social media to incite violence against police officers.
“The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office reviewed the Phoenix Police Department’s internal probe and determined that the officers ‘did not commit any act that warrants criminal prosecution,'” CNN reported. The county medical examiner’s office labeled the death a homicide but added a number of aggravating factors, including “coronary artery disease, psychiatric disease, acute methamphetamine intoxication and physical exertion during law enforcement subdual.”
Muhaymin’s family disagreed with several of those findings.
[image via screengrab]
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