18-year-old Mohammad Sanogo was arrested June 15 by UD police for resisting arrest and reckless driving.

Charges dropped in case of Christina grad arrested by UD 

Jarek RutzHeadlines, Police & Fire

18-year-old Mohammad Sanogo was arrested June 15 by UD police for resisting arrest and reckless driving.

18-year-old Mohammad Sanogo was arrested June 15 by UD police for resisting arrest and reckless driving.

After weeks of public outcry, charges were dropped against 18-year-old Mohammad Sanogo who was arrested by the University of Delaware police June 15 less than an hour after he received his high school diploma there.

The decision follows UD police finally releasing bodycam footage of the incident.

A Newark High School student, Sanogo was on campus because Christina School District rented the Bob Carpenter Center for its high school graduations. 

Sanogo, who had a grade point average above a 4.0 and plans to attend the University of Maryland for aerospace engineering, was arrested after police ordered him and friends to leave.

Police said he resisted arrest. Sanogo and witnesses said an officer ordered Sanogo, who is Muslim, out of his car and threw him to the ground, despite Sanogo telling them he could not breathe. He has asthma.

A statement from Attorney General Kathy Jennings said it was dropping charges after Sanogo  attended a course, which it didn’t identify, and accepted his responsibility in the incident. Again, it was not specific about what that responsibility was.

Efforts were not successful Monday morning to reach Sanogo for comment. 

Christina school board member Naveed Baqir has been a prominent voice in the defense of Sanogo, calling the arrest “another George Floyd moment.” 

Dozens of community members testified in support of Sanogo in a June board meeting, condemning UD Police and accusing them of misconduct and excessive force.

MORE: Christina’s Baqir: Review UD contracts after cop incident

Along with the bodycam footage the university reiterated that its police officers acted appropriately in addressing behavior that posed a risk to public safety. 

“UDPD is a nationally accredited police agency with officers trained to handle situations such as these through the application of objective and reasonable force, utilizing appropriate de-escalation techniques to ensure the safety of all involved—including Mr. Sanogo,” UD stated. “The University will continue its review of this situation to look for learning opportunities.”

Baqir wasn’t satisfied with what he called a “carefully crafted and edited video.”

“The video does not address the role of three trucks that blocked Mohammad’s car from three sides,” he said. “When Mohammad moved his car forward in anticipation of the truck to move once the signal light turned green is also being portrayed as if he was maneuvering the vehicle around those trucks when the fact is that the truck in front of Mohammad blocked traffic despite the green signal light.”

Baqir also said the trucks that failed to move on a green light and UD unnecessarily created a needless stressful situation to justify their actions to make an unwarranted arrest. 

“The Christina graduate was neither speeding in the parking lot nor did he have any person hanging out of his vehicle,” he said. “His medical condition and panic was completely ignored and his life was put in an unnecessary imminent danger by UD staff. Even when a truck in front of Mr. Sanogo purposefully blocked his exit on a green light, he was picked up and mercilessly thrown on the ground face first.”

MORE: Christina votes to stop graduations at UD after student arrest

A July 26 filing from Attorney General Kathy Jennings’ Office states that “after extensive review of the body camera and surveillance footage, conversations with University of Delaware Police and Mr. Sanogo’s attendance at a Department of Justice-sanctioned course on Friday, July 21, the State believes that dismissal of the charges is the appropriate resolution.” 

The letter also states that the Department of Justice is satisfied that Sanogo understands the role his actions played that night. 

“Prosecuting Mr. Sanogo would not advance the cause of Justice or public safety, and it is the State’s strong belief that a measured resolution is in the larger community’s best interest,” the letter read.

 “The State received 41 letters of support for Mr. Sanogo from family, friends and community leaders. By all accounts, Mr. Sanogo seems to be an exceptional student with a bright future. He has no prior criminal history and otherwise meets the criteria for restorative justice. The State’s decision is based on Mr. Sanogo’s acceptance of responsibility, combined with the desire to avoid any criminal record.”

In the weeks between the incident and the bodycam release, Christina began to cut ties with UD, with its board voting to no longer hold graduations at the university.

Further division between the district and UD could be on the horizon. Christina has 17 contracts or invoices with UD totaling a financial hit of $249,372.92.

“We are appreciative that the Delaware Department of Justice did the right thing here and dismissed these charges,” said Misty Seemans, an assistant public defender who represented Sanogo. “Mohammed is an extraordinary young man with a demonstrated stellar academic and volunteer record.”

She also cited that more than 40 people wrote character letters on his behalf, detailing that Sanogo is an intelligent, thoughtful and kind person.

“Our thanks also go to the community who supported Mohammed during this tough time,” she said. “We received letters and additional information describing his summer volunteering cleaning a school building in Africa, helping pay for a friend’s religious pilgrimage, and volunteering at blood drives. At this time, he looks forward to starting college in the fall.”

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