In Harm's Way: Remembering the Life of Kimani Gray

Friday, March 15, 2013


It’s been nearly a week since 16-year-old Kimani Gray was shot by plainclothes officers in East Flatbush, Brooklyn. Days of protest have followed with people in the community expressing anger as the city defended the officers' use of deadly force. His mother, Carol Gray, has been struggling this week to separate the details of her son’s life with how he died.

"Kimani is my 6th child, a very loving, playful, funny guy,” recalls the 49-year-old who immigrated from Jamaica decades ago.

She was recently on the sofa in her East New York living room sifting through some handwritten condolence cards from his fellow students at Manhattan’s Urban Assembly School of Design and Construction. She says her son liked school, but not as much as sleeping. She said she’d go to great lengths every day to try and get him out of bed.

“Shout, scream, lose sleep. I would wake him up and he would dose right back off.”

When he wouldn’t move she’d throw cold water on him.

Gray said Kimani excelled in subjects as varied as global history and gym until a few years ago when the family hit one snag after another. It started when she left her husband and moved their youngest children to a domestic violence shelter. She said they spent a year and a half in the shelter system. Soonafter, when Kimani was 14, her oldest son, Jahma, died in a car crash. She said Kimani took it hard because his brother watched over him like a father.

"Jahma used to make sure (Kimani’s) homework was done, he's off the street at a certain time of night, and in bed at a certain time of night," said Gray looking stoic.

She said Jahma also bought Kimani clothing and shoes. “When he passed away that all stopped. (Kimani) started feeling resentful that no one is there for him."

Kimani shut down even though everyone else was grieving too. And he pulled away more when they had to move into her brother's Brooklyn apartment and five of them shared one room.

She said Kimani would tell her he was staying out late because he said he had nothing to come home to. She admits he got arrested a few times for things like riding in a stolen car and for causing a ruckus with his friends at McDonalds. He was also picked up for truancy.

She thought things would settle down a little when he got his own bedroom in their new apartment.

"I remember when I shake the keys in front of him that Friday night when I got the keys from over here he jump as high as to the ceiling and said 'yes, we're finally out of here!"

They moved into a 4-bedroom duplex just a few days before Kimani was shot. The evening it happened, the 16-year-old was outside a friend's house on a way to a birthday party in East Flatbush.

When asked if she thought her son would ever carry a gun Gray said she doesn’t think so, but isn't sure.

“My point as a mother is regardless if you even suspect that he has a gun, one shot was enough. Not so many," she said. "The neighbor said Kimani was crying for his life. He was like 'Ok, you got me. You got me. I don’t want to die. Don’t kill me.'”

The Medical Examiner says Kimani was shot seven times, and that he had wounds in both the front and back of his body.

The NYPD says he was acting suspiciously when the officers approached him on March 9th. They allege he pointed a .38-caliber revolver at them, and they opened fire. The officers involved have been placed on administrative duty pending an investigation. 

Courtesy of Carol Gray
Carol Gray and her young son
Courtesy of Carol Gray
Kimani, on the left, with a friend in elementary school.
Courtesy of Carol Gray
Horsing around with one of his sisters
Kathleen Horan
A small memorial for the teen in the family's living room.
Kathleen Horan
Kimani's Uncle Cecil Nunes standing in the room the family used to share in his apartment.
The site of the shooting, outside 473 East 52nd Street in East Flatbush, Brooklyn
More recent images of the teen worn by a friend.


Julianne Welby


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Comments [35]

lexx from east ny , brooklyn

FUCK THE COPS. DEADASS . RIP kimani ]': I know
You anit pull out noo gun. Foh you wasnt like that
like that .. rest easy key.

May. 15 2013 05:01 PM

This is only a problem because he got shot by non-blacks (who were not white either) who happen to be cops. That's it. It's a chance for emotional porn. If he got shot by a fellow black and rival gangsta; nobody in the 'community' would say anything and they certainly wouldn't have rioted.

Apr. 05 2013 11:20 AM
june from Brooklyn

I think people are loosing focus on the fact that a child was gunned downed in the streets. Its not right for anyone to be killed regardless of who is doing the killing. One blogg is not going to make the negative minded people change their minds unless their family or friends are innocently targeted by NYPD as it is becoming the normal these days. Its not a matter of picking sides just simply open your eyes to injustice of any and all kinds.

Mar. 25 2013 04:33 PM

What if we were talking about the death of a police officer or robbery victim? A man who leaves behind a wife and kids. This is too bad somebody died, but when you join a gang and carry a deadly weapon you aren't innocent anymore. I blame the parents, the community in Brooklyn who failed this child and only now fill with outrage, and the media who continue to incorrectly report these stories as attacks on innocent people. We need to do something about absentee parenting in these communities and dismantle gang culture with real opportunities for young people. Mayor Booker has said in Newark these kids need mentors. Why can't these outraged people in Brooklyn mentor kids who need it instead of bashing the police. They have the power to stop their neighbors, children, and relatives from being another victim. The sad truth is nobody wants to "be a rat" or cooperate with police. This is their own mess and we can expect more shootings. They want some outside person to fix problems they have no will to fix.

Mar. 19 2013 06:34 PM
Safi from Brooklyn, New York

I swear people like some of you who have commented on this article are the scum of the earth. Unless he fired the the alleged gun, there is no way in hell this shooting can be justified. Somebody's sixteen year old child is dead, lying in the freaking morgue, and because he was a so called "gangster" it's ok? Who the hell are anyone of you to say which one life is worth more than the other? The mother should take personal personal responsibility? Where is the father? If you would pull your head out your asses long enough, maybe you might see that everyone is not as lucky as some of you are. You are all disgusting starting from Mike Bloomberg to the police department all the way down to some of you arrogant bigots who have commented on this article. Continue leading your privileged lives and leave the judging to god.

Mar. 17 2013 08:51 PM

Please post the video of Gray flashing his Bloods gang signs and slapping and spitting on a young Crip. The McDonald's "ruckus" was Crip retaliation.

Please ask the mother some questions about her lack of responsibility as a mother. Kimani wasn't her only child that was a thug. She has another in jail.

Mar. 17 2013 01:21 PM

The police who shot him said he had a gun. That has not yet been confirmed independently, and one cannot take the cops' word since they have every reason to lie. Evidently there are witnesses who said there was no gun. They also say the killers did not identify themselves as police.

Is it too much to ask for an independent investigation? Are we nothing better than a police state?

Mar. 16 2013 07:34 PM
educator from alaska

This story is tragic on many levels.
An answer to the mother about the bullets.. the hollow bullets used by the police back in the day would tear off limbs. Somewhere along the line it was decided to replace them with the ones that are used today. With these new bullets, a suspect can get shot and not even feel it. Some will even continue to attack after being shot and that's one of the reasons the police usually shoot more than once.

Mar. 16 2013 02:47 PM
Mary Thompson

I have questions about if this kid pulled a gun. This was not a kid with a bad record. He had hopeful things that had happened recently in his life. He went to school and was on his way to a birthday party. My big question is why? He was acting suspicious sounds like "he's black". I am not buying that he had a gun. Why?

Mar. 16 2013 01:14 PM

Get a life...............Pull a gun on anyone (especially a police officer) and you are going to get shot dead. Who in the hell would pull a gun on the police and expect any other outcome. If I were a police office I would have shot him too.

Mar. 16 2013 09:53 AM
clive betters

at the very least,can we get beyond an imperious a-hole like bloomberg, saying that the shooting was "justified". why can't we just say,that there are questions,and that no mayor is going to say,it's unjustified,because of the politcal fallout with the police. let's at the very least,admit, that we can't even have an honest conversation,because it's politically untenable.

Mar. 16 2013 02:02 AM
Zuwena from Manhattan

I sent a comment early this morning when the discussion was on and I don't see it. It adhered to the guidelines. Are you screening comments without any notice to us that you are doing so? You need to clean this up.

Mar. 15 2013 10:59 PM
Sainted_Mother from Red Hook, Brooklyn

I don't know how to feel about this ... I read all the comments prior to writing this and I can tell there is enuf sadness and anger and misunderstanding to coat the world. And none of it will bring back this child or any child dealt such a death blow. The only thing we can do is make a serious stab (pun intended) at a better future:

Better parenting? Sure, good idea. Let's teach kids in H.S.
(oh, wait, that will offend someone, surely ...
we need licenses to drive cars, but not to be parents)

Better support for the poor and disenfranchised? Equally good.
Again, let's teach Civics: civic duty, civic rights, ethics.
(oh, wait, that too will offend someone, and besides, it costs money, in an era of austere government)

Better training for the police? No doubt about it, we need this too.
(no arguments here, only how to get the money)

Better neighborhood watches? Maybe. But we need a better sense of what "the nabe" means ... and civics, and duty, and rights, and responsibility ... where our shared turf begins / ends.
(and training will surely cost money, and even then we can end up with more Trevon Martins)

More tolerance of differences? Better anger management?
Laudable to be sure. Costly to teach, monitor effectiveness.

Even if we _had_ enuf money and somehow agreed to and did all these things, there are no guarantees in life. Any one of us can be in the wrong place at the wrong time, and that's it for us. And the probability of such a violent exit will always vary by race, gender, education, and general socioeconomic status.

Myself, I think that community policing, with ongoing, weekly dialog with communities, so that everyone gets to know everyone else (and grumble and complain) will be the cheapest / best solution in the short run. Providing anger management and economic education will help in the long run, to mitigate one's birth zipcode. "Family" training, working with folks to learn how to live / stay together would be a brilliant stroke (kids w/o two parents, w/o stable home ... just not good ... anywhere in the world ... but the USA culture has statistically backed away from "traditional family" structure).

I pray, to my sainted mother, really. I cannot grasp the sadness and anger alone. We need each other.

Mar. 15 2013 06:05 PM
COGD from Brooklyn

Very very sad.... My words to mom do not listen to anything ignorant people have to say. If your son was indeed a "criminal" seven shots were not necessary making sure he was left for DEAD. Stay in prayer let God be the true judge get witnesses. If I come across any helpful information I will reach out to you as I am putting information together in the shooting that had taken place January 3rd 2013.
God Bless

Mar. 15 2013 04:45 PM
Wayne Johnson Ph.D. from Bk

WNYC is doing an excellent job in covering this tragedy. Even the piece by Illya Maritz on how businesses in East Flatbush are being effected by the nightly, vigils was a nice tribute to Kimani and the community that loved him. Katherine Horan did a very good interview with Kimani's mother. If he had a gun, it didn't have to come from a pretense to toughness, but like many young people a desire for protection. Your listeners who complain about the baby picture tell us all we need to know about them. All of this on the same day that WNYC reports that misconduct proceedings against 74 NYPD officers will not be completed, because the legal clock has run out on them.

Mar. 15 2013 04:39 PM
Shikara from FarRockaway

My name is Shikara Granville Kathleen Horans also did a special on my son Xavier Granville was recently killed n far rockaway words can express how dependly sadde. We as parents feel when our children r murder the cops R public enemy #1 they didnt have to shot tis child as many time never once n the article i have read abt tis case did the identify themselves n the mrdis doesn't make it no better no only r we grieving they always play the card to sell the story abt the child criminal history he was 16 teen u have an figure out ur career goals @ 30 an + not @ 16teen some times errything you read u can't believe my heart goes out to his mother n family @ tis time all doe my son was not killed by the cops they play a big roke in his death I do believe thank u.Kathleen again for putting another Wonderful piece together.....S.I.P Kimsni.....

Mar. 15 2013 04:04 PM

This is an unfortunate situation that has occurred, and I try to see both sides of the picture. I believe that this kid did make bad choices, and if a cop sees his life is in danger he should defend himself. However, the story still does not make sense to me, if this kid had his gun pointed first, how did these cops have the chance to draw their guns, and both shoot him before he even got a chance to shoot the cops. And how were they able to shoot him in the front and back? Was he also pointing his gun while he was running away, to justify them shooting him in the back after he was injured from front injuries? I am no expert but I do sense faul play. How is it that this 16 year old injured little teenager could not be probably shot once, and disarmed by cops. Maybe cops should be trained to defend themselves and disarm perps. It seems that anyone who comes in contact with the police in this kind of situation ends up dead. Perhaps this kid was a little monster, we don't know for sure, but what we do know is that we all made mistakes in our youth. I'm glad that the mistakes of my youth didn't result in my death. This kid could have turned up, we'll never know. And to those that say racism is not a factor, you're delusional. For many years now the lives of many black kids have been ended, with no one being brought to justice. The family has some responsibility in this, but this is also a societal problem that has to be addressed. Impoverished communities need help until they can get on their feet. They need support that helps them grow, not hinder or enable them. This kid may have fallin' pray to gang life. But what else did this kid have? People like to comment, and compare black children in impoverished communities to everyone else dealt a good hand, but if education, family life, and neighborhoods are not equitable this is not fair. We all know that education is constantly undergoing budget cuts and trying to survive. Until black children in impoverished communities are being treated fairly, don't compare them to everyone who has resources to turn out differently. Rest in peace Kimani Gray. Another thing I want to add, why is it not okay to publish photos of Kimani as a kid, but they did the same with this Sandy Hook shooter and no one says anything. Get real people, the world does not care about minorities. Minority people have to rise up, in a orderly fashion because no one is trying to help but positive change is necessary!

Mar. 15 2013 03:56 PM
MrsB from NJ

I'll bet Ted Bundy looked really cute as a kid, too...
I agree with some of the other posters in that I am disappointed in WNYC for choosing a baby picture of Kimani for the front page of the article. While the details of what happened remain to be sorted out, and none of us know at this point whether the shooting was 100% justified, it is up to reputable news institutions like WNYC to offer an unbiased account of the case, not tear-jerker pictures of a baby that may have turned out a lot less angelic than his photos suggest.

Mar. 15 2013 12:28 PM
Jesse from Bronx

God this is infuriating. Not one mention of the family's role in this tragedy. And let me say first of all I'm no supporter of the police, their policy, their behavior in these communities, etc. HOWEVER, where in the world is the father? The unwillingness of anyone on that program to address it this morning was glaring and outrageous! Even when the issues for discussion were rolled out, "family" wasn't even mentioned. Then they talked about how his brother who essentially raised him passed tragically and that's impact on him... still nothing. Then they talked about whether he may or may not have been in the street at night with a firearm, nope, nothing there either. So youth violence, the police, gangs, and everything else are huge issues, but the guidance this child was (or apparently wasn't) receiving in his life was totally insignificant apparently. This morning's panel did such an incredible disservice to this issue by avoiding discussion of a crucial issue in this, namely the lack of male role models in these communities. And WNYC went right along for the ride. Oh, and sidebar, I actually chuckled out loud when they said this wasn't a racial issue. Really? Disingenuous to say the very least. We all know racial dynamics play HEAVILY into this even if these specific cops happened to be black or latino.

Mar. 15 2013 12:02 PM
Mark from Brooklyn

I am appalled at how casually the guest speak of the possibility of a minor carrying a gun. And, Although I understand that the show is supposedly about police tactics in certain neighborhoods, on Monday there needs to be a show about how out of control some of our young people are as well as their seemingly unprepared and/or unfit parents. I am so tired of commentators (ex-gang members), such as those on today's show alluding to the "Street game" or "street life" as validating the reckless behavior we see from some of our children. And please, all these community programs involving basketball and cheerleading. What about community programs involving reading and math?

On another point, one of the commentator's said that this is not about race. Well, in part,the problem does involve race. Although, the police officers were said to be black and latino, that does not mean that race was not an issue. I seriously doubt that those same officers would have gone into a "white neighborhood" and fired off their guns as they did in East Flatbush. Institutional racism.

Yes, I am a Black male who grew up in the ghetto/ projects. And yes, I commonly face institutional racism in my life. But we have got to also take responsibility for our actions, choices and for the teachings that we impart to our children. I encounter too many lazy, uneducated and just plain stupid parents throughout my daily life in NYC.

Mar. 15 2013 11:51 AM
Carmen from Endicott

In Chicago, 6-month-old was shot dead by gang members the other day while having her diaper changed. Any plans to protest that, even though it wasn't police officers who shot her 5 times? Just wondering...

Mar. 15 2013 11:38 AM
Leo from queens

It is depressing to see some of the comments here from people that believe that an extra judicial execution is justified for a young person of color who is poor.

We have a serious problem with poverty in this city and we have a police department that no longer exists - The police now operates as the KGB or a secret police - you have police officers in plain clothes dressed as 'thugs' instigating people and coming up to people out of the blue and when that person doesn't react the way they expect that person to behave (docile) they execute them on the spot or if they run away they shoot them in the back or hunt them down until they execute them. .Is this the way to police?
The NYPD desperately needed a top down reform after the Guiliani years but unfortunately 9/11 came and our attention was rightly diverted to terrorism and security and we missed the opportunity to reform the NYPD and Kelly and Bloomberg have quietly turned the police department into a secret surveillance, vigilante organization which operates with little to no training and complete impunity.

Mar. 15 2013 11:11 AM
john from office

Sarah, because it is a biased picture. Innocent kid shot by bad cops.

Have you ever had a gun pointed at you, they were defending themselves.

Why dont you addresss the family disfunction? 6 kids, no dad, truancy???

Mar. 15 2013 10:58 AM

As a reminder, please be respectful, civil and on topic when leaving a comment.

Thank you,

Mar. 15 2013 10:49 AM

He was 16 - still a kid. Still had a chance to turn things around and have a good life. Why shouldn't he be humanized? He was a son and a brother. He was loved. He was grieving and struggling. We don't know if he was in a gang. Does it matter? He was shot 7 times. He cried for his life. They couldn't take him out with a shot to the leg?

Mar. 15 2013 10:38 AM

Why is nobody in the press asking what this kid was doing out on the street with a loaded gun? Why is the portrayal of him a 'family photo album' of a happy little child, leaving the impression that an innocent was gunned down by the 'evil' police? And what were the cops to do, fire one shot and wait to see if the gunman (that's what he was)was too disabled to shoot at them?

I notice that no-one is claiming that he didn't have gun, so barring evidence to the contrary the cops did what they had to do, and this kid is dead because of the choice he and his family made.

Mar. 15 2013 10:25 AM

I am so disappointed by this with WNYC – this is wrong: to show a gang member who pointed a gun at the police as an innocent CHILD.

Mar. 15 2013 10:01 AM
bernie from bklyn

carol gray is responsible for kimani gray's death. she and all those out rioting on church ave will never understand this fact so it's pointless to try and convince them. debate over, investigation over.
now can we move on to some real, relevant news please?

Mar. 15 2013 09:38 AM

The 16 year old was a member of the Bloods gang, had 4 convictions and had a loaded gun. Let's use common sense here. What makes this situation worse is that the gang has put out a "hit" on the NYPD, but they've been looting and targeting their own community! These aren't honorable people or actions. Also, it's wrong that news publications portray him as a young child or toddler- he was 16 (still a child in most people's eyes), but if this child considered himself adult enough to carry a loaded weapon, be a gang member and enact various crimes- we should consider him an adult as well.

Mar. 15 2013 09:34 AM
beaglelover from Queens

I am changing my homepage from WNYC to the Apple Store because I am sick of the nasty comments from so many people. This isn't dialogue, its bullsh*t!

Mar. 15 2013 09:19 AM
Jane from UWS

the commenter before is really a crab in barrel. We are all monkeys and an inability to have compassion is as primitive as a hormonal, emotional, jejune teenager. Teenagers all experiment with trouble. I grew up in a White affluent neighborhood. We could get away with anything. I'm sure that I would be killed if I grew up where these kids who keep being murdered by police live. Fact: there has been increased and ongoing misconduct of all American Police Departments since 9/11. We lose the next genius, the next Mother Teresa, the next Nelson Mandela when we exploit and murder the weakest in our population because eventually we are all weak, so this attitude is hypocritical. The way we treat Blacks and the lack of compassion for the lowest social rung is akin to treatment of women in the Mid-East. And let me also say that NO JEWISH PERSON ON EARTH SHOULD BE ALLOWING ANY OTHER PERSON TO BE PERSECUTED FOR ANY REASON EVER.

Mar. 15 2013 08:59 AM
John from office

Stop blaming the police for poor parenting skills, lack of education, lack of a desire for education, poor language skills, self hatred, failure to self police, desiring to be thugs, and living the thug life.

Thank god for Roe v. Wade, things would be worst. 6 kids??, how about show some restraint and not having so mny kids that you dont know where they are. In Chcago I saw balck kids, 5-9 years old out in the street at 2 am. Come on, be parents.

Mar. 15 2013 08:59 AM
Appalled from Manhattan

Are the moderators to this feed running late this morning? Do you intend to let johntheracist hispanic and whitetrash the coward freely spew hate on this feed?

Mar. 15 2013 08:51 AM
john from office

Wow the NYPD is shooting infants on street corners, not thugs hanging out with the homeboys. Terrible!

Was the toddler riding in a stolen car??

Mar. 15 2013 08:51 AM
Your Word from Hell

There is a special place in hell for you "whitecowardprince" I am sure your immigrant parents and grandparents would be ashamed of your words.

Mar. 15 2013 08:47 AM

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