On Thursday afternoon, 23-year-old woman Shantel Davis was flying down Church Avenue in East Flatbush, blowing through stop lights and cutting drivers off left and right. The car she was in had been stolen just a week before: Davis had pulled a pistol on an unsuspecting driver and told her to get out after taking the subject’s wallet and keys. Now, she was taking it out for a little joy ride and the cops were on her tail.
Detective Phillip Atkins and Officer Daniel Guida, both specializing in narcotics rather than civilian affairs, witnessed Davis blow a red at Church and East 48th Street. So they began to follow her but little did they know how Davis would react. While the cops were in pursuit, Davis crashed the car into an oncoming minivan, giving Davis and Guida the opportunity to confront the suspect.
When they arrived at the wrecked car, Davis jumped into the passenger side in an attempt to leave the scene as Guida grabbed her while she frantically avoided arrest. Davis grabbed the stick shift and put the car in reverse, leading Atkins to discharge his Smith & Wesson 9-mm. Only one bullet was fired… and it killed Shantel Davis.
This is the story reported by the media. But, to many Brooklynites at a protest this afternoon, there’s a different side to the gruesome tale.
Over the past 12 years, Phillip Atkins, the detective in question, has accumulated over 800 arrests and, with that, six federal lawsuits for police brutality. But, for a narcotics officer, this is apparently a common procedure: for drug dealers, taking an officer to court could be a lucrative business in itself. And, for Atkins at least, it has led $224,000 worth of settlement cash from the NYPD.
But Davis’s past is not that much better. The unarmed victim had a court date on Friday for a gang-related crime that took place a year ago, in which she was an accomplice. The group was charged with kidnapping a man and looting his apartment clean of money, video games and jewelry. After threatening to torture him for more cash, the gang reportedly shot the suspect, Ralph Ragoobar, in the back five times as he tried to flee.
And that is what Shantel Davis was going to court on Friday to testify against.
So the story bends in two different directions between an officer with a bad rap sheet and a woman with a bad criminal record. Where does the trust lie? A vigil in East Flatbush last night planned a protest in East Flatbush this afternoon, in which attendees are arguing that Atkins went too far and that the reported details of the struggle do not match up with eyewitness accounts.
In that sense, we have a completely different question to ask: was the gun discharged in a justifiable manner? Was it absolutely necessary to quell the situation? The sparked protests seem to be the beginning of what could be a heavily controversial situation.
The Voice will keep you updated on the ongoing nature of this story.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on June 16, 2012