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Flatbush Community Reels after Another Night of Violence

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Poster calling on police to investigate the shooting of 16-year-old Kimani Gray hang on telephone poles along Church Ave. in East Flatbush, Brooklyn. Poster calling on police to investigate the shooting of 16-year-old Kimani Gray hang on telephone poles along Church Ave. in East Flatbush, Brooklyn. (Stephen Nessen/WNYC)

Dozens of tall burning candles, handmade posters and two wine bottles wrapped in red bandanas remain at a vigil in East Flatbush for a 16-year-old boy shot dead by police last Saturday. That corner on Church Avenue and 55th Street is where a Wednesday evening vigil turned violent, for the second time this week, resulting in 46 arrests.

Kimani "Kiki" Gray is the 16-year old who was shot by police Saturday night after he allegedly pointed a .38 caliber revolver at two plain clothed officers. The medical examiner revealed that Gray was shot seven times, in the front and back of his body, as well as his legs, ribs and arms.

More than 100 people attended a candlelight vigil Wednesday night, where anger was palpable as a group of young people heckled police officers in helmets and later marched down a street.

The vigil's organizers tried and failed to calm the young people, some of whom later threw bottles at police officers.

Dennis James, 45, lives in East Flatbush and stopped by the vigil site Thursday morning. He wishes the police had used more restraint, before opening fire. But he also said there needs to be more programs for the youth.

“The youth in this neighborhood have been long neglected. There’s too much pretend to help, but it’s never materialized. There’s hostility, they’re closing our schools they’re taking away our jobs, so they’re not giving the youth anything but the streets,” James said.

Posters at the vigil for Kimani Gray on the corner of Church Avenue and 55th Street (WNYC/Stephen Nessen).

Police were stationed on various corners along Church Avenue on Thursday.  A poster has been taped on several telephone poles along the street with Gray’s Facebook photo of him pulling his knit hat down with both hands and the words: “The Caribbean Guyana Institute for Democracy Demands An Independent Investigation into the Shooting of Kimani Gray.”

Joyce Davoren, 43, is a jazz singer who was born and raised in East Flatbush. She agreed that the police aren’t entirely to blame for the recent incidents.

“I think the children, when they come out, they have to be more cautious about who they’re associating with and also with how they respond to officers, that may help,” she said.

But Nadine, who declined to give her last name, said the police target the kids in her neighborhood. She lives near Gray’s family and has a son who was friends with the teen.

“Its outrageous that they’re attacking babies, 16 and 15 year old, babies, these are our children,” she said, with tears in her eyes.

Shawn Burgendy, 29, has known Gray since he was a baby.  He said he’s not surprised the community is reacting with such anger.

“Everyone’s tired, this is not the first time it happened,” he said. “Police brutality. It happens, it don’t have to be a shooting, it can be me walking to the store late at night, they stop me harass me, go through my pants, its crazy out here.”

"Kiki" Kimani Gray's nickname, written in wax at his vigil on Church Avenue and 55th Streets in East Flatbush, Brooklyn (WNYC/Stephen Nessen).

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Comments [7]

Ms. Gradel,

Since you understand how people might develop a bias against police officers based on incidents such as you describe, why can you not understand how police officers can develop biases of their own based on incidents they encounter literally every day?

The homeless man you witnessed being handled disrespectfully...you walked into the middle of a story there; seems like you take too great a liberty indulging in speculation, even though your life is not on the line, while refusing to grant a cop the same courtesy, whose life actually is on the line.

Now I know that cops and soldiers -- "security types" -- are typically frathouse kind of guys and gals...I'm not saying I'd love hanging out with such people personally, but I do recognize that they are faced with very delicate situations and will inevitably wind up making mistakes. So if the worst a cop who's fed up with a nut-job does is to unceremoniously tell him to go away, well, that's hardly anything to build an anti-cop attitude upon...I think you're being disingenuously selective in your sympathies.

Mar. 16 2013 01:49 PM
Disappointed from Flatbush

What was a 16 year old male child doing late at night with a .38 caliber revolver? Where were his parents? Did they know where their child was and what he was doing? Black people, we need to take responsibility for our children!

Mar. 15 2013 07:31 PM
Melissa Gradel

On Wednesday evening, March 13, I exited the Church Avenue Q/B subway station a little after 8.30 PM. On the northeast corner of Church and 18th Street, a group of police officers was surrounding a man. He was a short, middle-aged man, Spanish speaking, and clearly not in his right mind. My guess would be that he was either very, very drunk or on drugs. He looked unappealing, perhaps homeless, but harmless. The police officers were telling him to leave the area, shouting things like, “Go on, get the f**k out of here! Go! I already told you, get the f**k out of here. If I see you again I’ll put your ass in jail!”

As I crossed the street, a tall young policeman put both hands on the drunk’s chest and shoved him backwards. He fell on the street. Several of the police officers laughed. They continued to shout at and threaten him as he struggled back to his feet, mumbling incoherently. The aggressive officer squared off, nose-to-nose with the man. Eventually someone, perhaps a friend of the drunk man, stepped forward and managed to hustle him away, with the police officers continuing to yell threats at their backs.

I walked slowly away, shaking my head, as did many of my neighbors.

The scene resembled nothing so much as a group of teenaged bullies ganging up on the fat kid, the retarded kid, the gay kid, or some other defenseless target. Courtesy, professionalism and respect were in short supply.

The behavior of the police officers—I believe five white men and one black woman—was observed by many people exiting that busy subway station, walking home or waiting for the 35 bus. I do not know what prompted the officers to confront the man. But he certainly didn’t look like he could hurt anyone other than himself. Regardless, the police assaulted him and I think that would be inappropriate, to say the very least, at any time and under any circumstances. At a time when our neighborhood is experiencing a high level of tension, it endangers the public welfare and the peacefulness of the neighborhood.

Although I live thirty blocks or so from where the recent unrest has taken place, the increased tension is palpable. On Church Avenue and other nearby streets, which often have a heavy police presence, there are many more uniformed police. We hear sirens and helicopters.

These cops gave the impression of kids looking for a rumble. I wondered who I could call for help if the incident had escalated? I wished I’d had the presence of mind to take out my smart phone and photograph or videotape the policemen’s actions.

To state the very obvious: behavior like this feeds the public mistrust of the police. Police officers are observed by the public and they, and all of their brother and sister officers, are judged accordingly. These cops were amateurs.

Mar. 15 2013 08:21 AM
lg

@ Richard you are obviously a clueless liberal. First of all this shooting was completely justified. This punk pointed a gun at police. Hardly the time to ask questions. Secondly this occurred in Brooklyn not Harlem. Third, id imagine there's not many guns or crime in tarrytown but here in Brooklyn illegal guns are out of control and innocents are hit all the time when these idiots shoot at each other. You have no clue how to fix this. It must be easy to look down from your ivory liberal tower and tell brave inner city cops how to do their job.

Mar. 14 2013 08:10 PM
Colin from Asia

It looks like the shooting was just another step towards massive riots this summer and after. The USA looks as dysfunctional as The Soviet Union was in the `run-up` before its collapse; and the UK has no room to smirk.
But this.....
QUOTE;-“Police brutality. It happens, it don’t have to be a shooting, it can be me walking to the store late at night, they stop me harass me, go through my pants, its crazy out here.”
Response;- The police have a duty to search people who the store owners have reported for shoplifting.
The alternative is higher and higher costs (a hidden form of tax) to those who do pay, and shops that only sell from behind bulletproof screens (in the USA; or goods all behind glass screens (in the UK), as was the case at a shop near my home when I was 4-y/o in York (over 40-years ago).
It all depends on how you want a country to turn out I guess. The UK got better for a while on the back of loans (but went too far); and the USA is on a currency bubble (prior to another war this time); it would appear; but then again, I am just an average guy.

Mar. 14 2013 07:04 PM
WhitePrince from Whiteyville

Good job NYPD. That punk got what he deserved.

Mar. 14 2013 02:44 PM
Richard Binkele from Tarrytown

It seems like Police Commissioner Kelly's message to Harlem is "We shoot and ask questions later, so you'd better behave." I think there are better ways that need to be explored with the community instead of stop-n-frisk.

Mar. 14 2013 10:17 AM

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