Family of Riverdale teen killed by police at Florida college questions use of force

Alhaji Sow was shot and killed by police on his Florida college campus Friday.

Credit: Channel 2 Action News

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Alhaji Sow was shot and killed by police on his Florida college campus Friday.

Credit: Channel 2 Action News

Detailed timeline of events released by cops

The family of a metro Atlanta teenager killed by police on the campus of his Florida college is asking why officers used firearms instead of trying nonlethal options first during their encounter with him Friday night.

Meanwhile, police in Melbourne on Wednesday released a minute-by-minute timeline that adds much more detail and context to the incident.

Alhaji M. Sow, 18, of Riverdale, died Friday after he was shot by a security guard and police officer at the Florida Institute of Technology, where he was a student, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution previously reported. On Wednesday, Sow’s family addressed the media and questioned some of the details about the circumstances of the shooting.

“You don’t know how much pain you get from losing a child,” Mohamed Sow, the student’s father, said. “It is so sad. We just want to know why. Why did Alhaji have to die like this?”

ExploreCops: Metro Atlanta teen killed by police in Florida campus incident

Initial reports from Melbourne police said Sow was carrying a knife and that he attacked an officer with an “edged weapon.” The blow-by-blow timeline revealed that Sow was holding a pair of scissors when he died.

“Our primary concern is why nonlethal options were not considered or used in this case,” Greg Francis, an attorney for Sow’s family, said during the family news conference.

According to the timeline, the incident began when Sow got into a “physical struggle” with a female student in her apartment between 10:30 and 10:40 p.m. The other student, who police described as a friend of Sow’s, made him leave her apartment.

Campus security was dispatched after getting reports that a man, who police believe was Sow, slapped a second female student as he ran past her in a parking garage. A third woman was punched by a man in the parking deck, also believed to be Sow, and a witness called 911 at 10:49 p.m. to report the attack. The caller said the man was carrying a knife.

After the 911 call, Sow went to the back of a dormitory building called Roberts Hall and broke in through a window, cutting himself in the process, police said. Authorities said he dropped the knife and tried to get into some rooms on the second floor, but they were locked. He returned to the first floor and got into a confrontation with a resident advisor, who police say Sow hit several times before leaving the building.

Melbourne police were dispatched to campus at 10:51 p.m., according to the timeline. Five minutes later, another 911 caller reported that Sow was back in the same parking garage and was vandalizing cars. Sow allegedly got into another confrontation with a man and hit him multiple times in front of a dorm called Campbell Hall. Sow then entered the dorm, where he argued with one student and a second ran into a different room and locked the door, police said.

At 10:58 p.m., Melbourne police and school security officers began searching Campbell Hall for Sow. They located him in a dorm room and a security officer used a key to open the locked door at 11:06 p.m. A Melbourne police officer and a security guard both entered the room, where Sow was crouched by a refrigerator. Police said Sow lunged at the officer with a pair of scissors, stabbing him in the leg and causing a minor injury. The officer and security guard both fired their guns and Sow was hit multiple times.

According to Sow’s family, the erratic behavior described in the police timeline did not match with the teenager they knew. Sow’s uncle, Abu Koroma, spoke to Channel 2 Action News and said that Sow was “very, very respectable to the community and I met this guy since the day he was born, he’s a good friend.”

Francis, the family’s lawyer, said Sow had no history of mental illness.

Melbourne police have released 911 calls related to the incident and have turned over their officer’s body-worn camera to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement as the state agency investigates the officer-involved shooting. Footage from the body camera will be released at a later date, police said.

The investigation remains active and anyone with information is asked to contact Melbourne Police Detective Cahalan at 321-608-6453 or FDLE Special Agent Bliss at 321-752-3107.

— Please return to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution for updates.

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