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Family implores Phoenix council to act in in-custody death of Muhammad Muhaymin

Family of Muhammad Muhaymin
Posted at 4:01 PM, Apr 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-27 01:29:27-04

PHOENIX — The family of a man who died in Phoenix police custody in 2017 is again calling on Phoenix City leaders to fire the officers involved and to support prosecuting the officers for their actions.

A lawyer for Muhammad Muhaymin's family sent a letter to Phoenix city council members Monday saying they had a moral obligation to act.

"You can take an unequivocal and firm position that the responsible police officers should be fired and held to account for their crimes," the letter urged city council members. Ultimately, in Phoenix, the police chief and city manager, not the council, have the power to hire or fire police officers.

In January 2017, police were called on 43-year-old Muhammad Muhaymin because he tried to bring his dog into a public restroom.

"He assaulted no one; committed no crime," Attorney Haytham Faraj said in the letter. "He simply wanted to go to the toilet, and he was killed for it."

The letter compared the 43-year-old's death in Phoenix to George Floyd's in Minneapolis last year.

Things got physical when officers tried to arrested Muhaymin for an outstanding warrant. Officers handcuffed him, forced him face down on the ground, and at least one officer had his knee on the man's head and neck, according to police video footage. Muhaymin said he could not breathe.

"Like Derrick Chauvin and the other officers that killed George Floyd, your Phoenix officers ignored the pleas," Faraj wrote. "It took about eight minutes and twenty-four seconds for Mr. Muhaymin to die. It was a slow, excruciating, painful death."

The county medical examiner ruled Muhaymin's death a homicide.

Last summer, 61 community action groups, and religious organizations sent a letter to Phoenix's mayor and the Maricopa County Attorney's Office that urged them to act. The letter said videos released as part of a lawsuit, "clearly demonstrates the officers engaged in illegal and discriminatory acts."

With officers on top of him, Muhaymin called out, "Please, Allah."

One officer responded, "Allah? He's not going to help you now," according to the activists' viewing of the video.

All the officers kept their jobs after Muhaymin's death. The county attorney's office reviewed the case in 2018 and declined criminal charges against the officers.