After three years, Muhammad Muhaymin’s family is still looking for justice.
By Jon Greig
The family of Muhammad Muhaymin Jr. continues to seek justice after his 2017 death in police custody.
Newly released police bodycam videos have been shared with the public showing officers violently arresting Muhammad, according to HuffPost. Medical examiners later ruled his death a homicide, citing cardiac arrest.
The family, however, disputes the findings of the medical examiner, who ruled his cause of death a result of “coronary artery disease, psychiatric disease, acute methamphetamine intoxication, and physical exertion during law enforcement subdual.”
Despite the harrowing videos, all 10 of the officers involved in Muhammad’s death are still working for the Phoenix Police Department.
Officers Oswald Grenier, Jason Hobel, Ronaldo Canilao, David Head, Susan Heimbigner, Kevin McGowan, James Clark, Dennis Leroux, Ryan Nielsen and Steven Wong were not arrested or charged for his death, CNN reported.
“The way that [the officers] spoke to him, the way that they treated him, they dehumanized him. And then afterward the narratives that they put out dehumanized him and put out the perception that he was just a homeless guy with mental health issues,” Mussalina Muhaymin, the 43-year-old’s sister,told HuffPost.
“But he was so much more than that. [The police] made an assumption about who this person is based on his appearance as a Black male and his name Muhammad Muhaymin Jr. But this is who he is. I want to paint that true picture of who he is, not based on the assumptions,” Mussalina said.
On Jan. 4, 2017, Muhammad tried to use a public restroom but was denied entry because he had his service dog with him. His family said that the 43-year-old suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, acute claustrophobia and schizophrenia, and relied on his dog Chiquita for support in times of distress.
The community center would not allow him in with the dog, and an argument ensued, according to KTLO. The police were called and 10 officers got into a violent encounter with him as he held his dog.
During the incident, it was revealed Muhammad previously missed a court date for a misdemeanor charge related to a marijuana pipe that was found after he was stopped for jaywalking in 2016.
In multiple videos showing the incident, Muhammad begged for his sister to be called and cried out for Allah, only to be mocked by the officers.
“The first time I saw it was like, ‘Wow, he was really pleading for his life.’ The other times that I saw it, I was angry and I’ve been angry every time after that. Whatever the case may be, it’s not worth his children not having a dad,” his sister Tonya Davis told The Arizona Republic.
“It’s not worth me not having a brother. It’s not worth my mother not having a son. We will never be able to get him back. Never. All we have is memories,” she added.
When two officers initially began handcuffing him outside of the community center, Muhammad refused to put down his dog. They threw him to the ground and began to kneel on his neck and back as he screamed “I can’t breathe” and “Please, Allah, help me.”
“Allah? He’s not going to help you right now. Just relax,” one officer said in the video.
Officers continued to kneel and press down on his back and chest before he went unresponsive.
“I don’t feel a pulse,” an officer said on the video before another says, “Oh, he’s dead.”
Muhammad was later taken to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead.
His family hired a forensic pathologist who said Muhammad died from “asphyxiation due to compression of his trunk and body.”
Dr. Bennet Omalu wrote a report for the family explaining that multiple officers were press down on Muhammad before his death.
“If Muhammad did not encounter the police on January 4, 2017, he would not have died,” Omalu wrote.
Scott Simpson, public advocacy director at Muslim Advocates, told HuffPost that Muhammad’s death was “violent and brutal and disturbing.” He and other human rights organizations in the city have called for an independent prosecutor to be appointed and for the case to be reopened, according to Muslim Advocates.
“They profiled him because of his race, they disregarded his disability, they mocked his Muslim faith and they treated him as subhuman because of his income, and it’s just inexcusable,” Simpson said, according to HuffPost.
A Maricopa County Attorney’s Office review said that despite what appears on the videos, the officers did nothing “that warrants criminal prosecution.”
“We have heard the mayor of Phoenix and the police chief of Phoenix police talk about what happened in Minneapolis, say that they are ashamed, condemn the people involved as if it were something separate from us. They never acknowledge that what happened to George Floyd, their police officers did here, to Muhammad Muhaymin,” Viri Hernandez, executive director of Poder in Action, said to CNN.
Muhammad’s sister said he was a loving father, spent time teaching martial arts and was a hip-hop dancer. He experienced homelessness after his father died in 2006 and began to struggle with his mental health.
The family is suing the city in a wrongful death suit and expected to go to trial in 2021.
“This has changed the course of who we are, it’s changed our whole belief system. The biggest thing that I love about him was his big personality. He was funny, and a fun person to spend time with, and he kept you laughing. He was my protective little brother,” Mussalina said.