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Officers cleared in shooting death 

A Cobb County grand jury ruled Dec. 11 that two officers did nothing wrong when they killed an Ethiopian-born man who was wielding a 4-by-4 wooden plank.

"It was found that the officers were justified in the shooting," Cobb District Attorney spokeswoman Kathy Watkins says.

That's no consolation to Surafel Assaminew's friends and family, who have rallied at the state Capitol, held candlelight vigils in Marietta's square and won the support of the Ethiopian ambassador in calling for a thorough investigation of 30-year-old Assaminew's September death.

Assaminew, a poet and musician, was scheduled to graduate with an engineering degree from Southern Polytechnic this month. His cousin and family spokesman, Abebe Kebede, says the Assaminews were hoping celebrate his graduation, made all the more impressive given that Asseminew had battled bipolar disorder for four years. Instead, Kebede says, the family is saddened by their belief that the exonerated officers fired unfairly at Assaminew during the course of a manic episode.

Cobb Police, on the other hand, describe Asseminew as unruly and a threat, having accosted a neighbor of his in west Marietta and having failed to respond to repeated police orders to drop the wooden plank.

"It's a grave miscarriage of justice to kill a mentally ill man and say these people have not violated his rights," Kebede says. "At this point, we're discussing [the case] with family and with our attorney, and we will announce the decision that we will make."

He said the family might consider filing a lawsuit against the Cobb County Police Department, whose officers have shot and killed five suspects this year.

CL's initial article on Asseminew's death can be found at

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