Connecticut Trooper Who Fatally Shot Man In Stopped Car Set To Go On Trial

FILE - This Jan. 15, 2020, image taken from dashboard camera video released by the Connecticut State Police, shows Trooper Brian North, left, after he discharged his weapon beside a  vehicle stopped in West Haven, Conn. Jury selection is scheduled to begin Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2024, in North's trial. North has pleaded not guilty to first-degree manslaughter with a firearm in the death of Mubarak Soulemane in West Haven. (Connecticut State Police via AP, File)
FILE - This Jan. 15, 2020, image taken from dashboard camera video released by the Connecticut State Police, shows Trooper Brian North, left, after he discharged his weapon beside a vehicle stopped in West Haven, Conn. Jury selection is scheduled to begin Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2024, in North's trial. North has pleaded not guilty to first-degree manslaughter with a firearm in the death of Mubarak Soulemane in West Haven. (Connecticut State Police via AP, File)

A Connecticut state trooper who killed a 19-year-old man while firing seven gunshots into a stopped car in 2020 is set to stand trial for manslaughter.

Jury selection began Wednesday in the trial of Trooper Brian North. North has pleaded not guilty to first-degree manslaughter with a firearm in the death of Mubarak Soulemane in West Haven. A six-person jury is tentatively scheduled to begin hearing evidence on March 4.

Soulemane had stolen a ride-sharing car and led officers on a high-speed chase on Interstate 95 before North opened fire into the driver’s window at close range on the evening of Jan. 15, 2020, according to authorities.

North told investigators he fired because Soulemane had a knife and appeared to be readying to attack other officers on the other side of the car.

But Inspector General Robert Devlin, whose office investigates all uses of deadly force by police in Connecticut, concluded 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,” Devlin wrote in a report. “Further, any belief that persons were in such danger was not reasonable.”

Devlin, a former state judge, decided to charge North despite noting in his report that two experts consulted by a previous prosecutor who investigated the shooting concluded North was justified in opening fire.

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. Despite having a knife, Soulemane was inside the car by himself and police should have attempted to de-escalate the situation, they said.

“After four years, the family is eager for the criminal trial to finally get underway,” Mark Arons, a lawyer for Soulemane's family, said in a statement.

Soulemane’s mother, Omo Mohammed, has said she wants to see North convicted and sent to prison. She is suing North and other officers.

The inspector general's office, through a spokesperson, declined to comment on the upcoming trial and referred to Devlin's report.

North's lawyer did not return a message seeking comment.

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

On the day of the shooting, 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, Devlin’s report said.

Soulemane led police on a chase of nearly 30 miles (48 kilometers) from Norwalk to West Haven that reached speeds of 100 mph (161 kph) on Interstate 95, the report said.

In West Haven, state police said Soulemane took an exit, rear-ended a civilian’s vehicle and was immediately boxed in by police. Police said the officers ordered him out of the car, but he refused.

State police body camera videos show a West Haven officer smashing out the passenger door window of the stolen car before another trooper shoots Soulemane with a stun gun, which didn’t work.

North then fired his handgun seven times through the driver’s door window when Soulemane displayed the knife, state police said.

After being charged in 2022, North was placed on paid administrative leave and his police powers were suspended.

The state police union has said it disagrees with Devlin's decision to prosecute North, saying North was trying to protect the other officers.