— African immigrant Amadou Diallo, 22, was unarmed when he was gunned down outside his Bronx, N.Y., apartment in February 1999 by four white plainclothes police. They were part of an elite street crime unit and said they approached Diallo because he resembled a rape suspect they were seeking. As Diallo reached for his wallet, the officers fired a fusillade of 41 bullets. They thought he was reaching for a gun, the police said. The four officers were cleared in state court. The Justice Department decided there wasn't enough evidence for civil rights charges, which would have required proving the officers intentionally used excessive force.
—Sean Bell, a 23-year-old black New Yorker, was killed at the wheel of his car early on the morning of what would have been his wedding day. Police fired 50 shots as Bell and two friends were driving away from his bachelor party at a Queens strip club in November 2006. The officers had seen Bell's friends arguing with another patron outside the club and said they thought Bell's group planned a drive-by shooting. There was no gun in the car. Three officers — one black, one white and one Hispanic — were tried before a judge, who cleared them. The Justice Department found insufficient evidence to bring civil rights charges.
—On New Year's Day 2009, subway passenger Oscar Grant was killed by a transit police officer in Oakland, Calif. Cellphone cameras captured the scene — an unarmed, 22-year-old black man shot while lying face down on a station platform, surrounded by police. Outrage over the incident led to riots in Oakland. The shooting is recreated in the current movie "Fruitvale Station." Transit police had seized Grant and others while investigating reports of a fight on a train. Then-officer Johannes Mehserle said he meant to reach for his Taser and mistakenly pulled his gun. Mehserle, who is white, was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and sentenced to two years. The Justice Department announced in 2010 that it would look into a possible civil rights case, and the department says that investigation is still ongoing.
Associated Press researcher Monika Mathur contributed to this report.
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