" American Skin "

41 Shots

Protestor holds aloft a wallet at march in support of Amadou Diallo

" ...Is it a gun?
Is it a knife?
Is it a wallet?
This is your life..."

New York Post 2-5-99

On February 4, 1999 at 12:45 am, four New York City plainclothes police officers, (Richard Murphy, Kenneth Boss, SeanAmadou Diallo Carroll and Edward McMellon) observed Amadou Diallo, a 22 year old West African immigrant, in front of his apartment building at 1157 Wheeler Ave. in the Bronx. Observing him on the steps of his building, the officers, who stated that he fit the description of a male wanted for rapes in the area, approached Diallo. Apparently backing into the vestibule of his building, Diallo reached into his pants pocket for his wallet and was shot and killed by the officers. A total of 41 shots were fired by the officers, 19 of which struck Diallo. New York Daily News 2-6-99The officers related that they thought Diallo was pulling a weapon. The officers were arrested and charged with murder in Diallo's death. They were subsequently tried and found innocent by a jury. Federal charges were not filed, and the officers were also exonerated by the New York City Police Department. The shooting became a controversial issue around the nation, leading to protests and marches by community organizations and reactions by police. Chants of "41 Shots" were repeated wherever the issue took to the streets. Many were angered by the "innocent" verdicts and felt that justice was not served. The issue simmered throughout New York City during the summer of 1999 and also impacted on the Clinton-Giuliani Senate race.
In the spring of 2000, Springsteen performed a new song,Editorial Cartoon in Atlanta. "American Skin-41 Shots," immediately became a hot news item around the nation. Springsteen was revered and criticized for the selection, and though he refused to comment publicly, he met with Diallo's parents at a concert at Madison Square Garden, where he performed the song for ten straight shows. A haunting song, with lyrics that highlight the tragedy of Diallo's shooting, it drewOfficers react to not guilty verdicts in Albany courtroom mixed reactions at concerts. Received favorably in general, there were several New York Postoccasions where boos could be heard when they song was played. It received immediate condemnation from the New York City Police Benovlent Association, the New York State PBA and Mayor Guiliani of New York City. Police Union officials called for a boycott of Springsteen's concerts, and officers scheduled to work the concerts were encouraged to forgo the duties. Union officials referred to Springsteen as a "dirtbag" and a "floating fag," slurs for which they later issued apologies. Union officials felt the song was going to fan flames of unrest during the summer months and accused Bruce of performing the song to assist Hillary Clinton in her run for the Senate. For more on related issues see Stories of 15 Black Men Killed by Police from the Cincinnati Enquirer, or visit the FBI Press Page.

American Skin Video


41 shots
41 shots
41 shots
41 shots
41 shots
41 shots
41 shots
41 shots....
and we'll take that ride
'cross this bloody river
to the other side
41 shots... cut through the night
You're kneeling over his body in the vestibule
Praying for his life

Is it a gun? Is it a knife?
Is it a wallet? This is your life
It ain't no secret
It ain't no secret
No secret my friend
You can get killed just for living
In your American skin

41 shots
Lena gets her son ready for school
She says "on these streets, Charles
You've got to understand the rules
If an officer stops you
Promise you'll always be polite,
that you'll never ever run away
Promise Mama you'll keep your hands in sight"

Is it a gun? Is it a knife?
Is it a wallet? This is your life
It ain't no secret
It ain't no secret
No secret my friend
You can get killed just for living
In your American skin

Is it a gun? Is it a knife?
Is it in your heart? Is it in your eyes?
It ain't no secret

41 shots... and we'll take that ride
'Cross this bloody river
To the other side
41 shots... got my boots caked in this mud
We're baptized in these waters and in each other's blood

Is it a gun? Is it a knife?
Is it a wallet? This is your life
It ain't no secret
It ain't no secret
No secret my friend
You can get killed just for living
In your American skin

Law Enforcement Officers Killed in 2001:
23 from NYPD at the World Trade Center
37 from Port Authority Police at the World Trade Center
5 from NY Tax Enforcement Unit at the World Trade Center
3 from NY Courts at the World Trade Center
1 from Fire Marshall's Office at the World Trade Center
1 from Secret Service at the World Trade Center
1 from FBI at the World Trade Center
1 from Federal Wildlife Enforcement on Flight 93
10 Officers responding to domestic calls
10 Officers conducting traffic stops
10 Officers killed in ambush situations
8 Officers conducting drug investigations
8 Officers serving arrest warrants
8 Officers investigating suspicious persons
5 Officers responding to disturbance calls
4 Officers resonding to robbery calls
2 Officers responding to burglary calls
2 Officers transporting prisoners
2 Officers handling mentally deranged persons
77 Officers died in duty related accidents
Sixty officers were killed with firearms.At the time they were slain, 39 officers were wearing body armor. Sixteen officers attempted to use their weapons by unsnapping the holsters, drawing the weapons, or performing an action to indicate an attempt to use the weapons but were unable to fire. Twelve of the officers fired their own weapons during the incident, and 7 officers' weapons were stolen (taken from the scene). Three officers were killed with their own weapons. Twenty seven of the officers made no attempt to use their weapons prior to being killed.

The Trial-Court TV
Read the Indictment
Read the Autopsy Report
View Autopsy Graphics
Profiles of Those Involved
The Jurors
Judge Denies Trial Access to Handicapped Cop
41 Shots: Springsteen & Freedom of Expression
Getting Under My American Skin
American Skin, American Ears
Amadou Diallo Editorial Cartoons
Sean Carroll: The Torment
PBA Calls For Springsteen Boycott
Where are the Songs? New York Post
Justice For Amadou Diallo
Sharpton Blames the Bronx DA
Officers Acquitted of All Charges
Lawmakers Threaten Boycott Over Diallo Verdict
NYPD Street Crime Unit Dismantled
No Federal Charges for Diallo Cops
Jurors Defend Diallo Verdict
Police Brutality: Shielded From Justice
Race, Rights and Police Brutality: Amnesty International
Justice For Danny Faulkner
National Law Enforcement Officer's Memorial Site
Sgt. Patrick King Benefit Concert
Sentimental Springsteen Won't Rock the Boat

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