On the afternoon of July 19, Adama Traoré was riding his bike through the center of Beaumont-sur-Oise, a picturesque hillside town north of Paris. The day had been uncommonly hot, more than 90 degrees. Even on the narrow, winding streets of Beaumont, the shade lay in narrow ribbons along the storefronts of the bakeries, groceries, pharmacies, and computer repair shops; restaurants were just opening back up after a midday siesta.
It was Adama’s 24th birthday. He was working construction and had saved up the money for a celebratory trip south that weekend. Gliding into the cobblestone plaza by the public library, he joined his older brother Bagui at the wicker chairs and marble-topped tables of the Balto, a corner bar where a coffee costs a euro and change.
Two plainclothes police approached. They were looking for Bagui in connection with an extortion case. The elder Traoré handed over his ID. But Adama didn’t have his on him. He had recently spent several months in jail, on charges of hitting a man, and he was not planning on going back. So he fled.
Two hours later, he lay dead in the courtyard of a police station. The cause of death was later found to be asphyxiation.