A candlelit vigil for a Brooklyn teen killed by New York City police officers left two people injured and led to one arrest Monday night.
At approximately 7:00 pm, roughly 200 people gathered in East Flatbush for a somber vigil to remember Kimani Gray, a 16 year-old shot and killed by plainclothes police officers Saturday night after allegedly pointing a gun at them.
Following the memorial at E. 52nd St. and Tilden Ave., the site of Saturday’s shooting, mourners began marching toward the 67th precinct but access to building was cut off by police.
Garbage cans were flipped over as the crowd moved through the streets and witnesses claimed the demonstrators threw objects at the police.
Approximately 60 individuals broke off from the march and entered a Rite Aid store on Church Avenue, where they pulled items from the shelves and tipped over a number of displays, NYPD Deputy Inspector Kim Royster said.
Royster said a customer in the store suffered a laceration to the head after being struck with a bottle. The man was transferred to Kings County Hospital Center where he was listed in stable condition. The manager of the store was also injured by the crowd but declined medical treatment. Royster said no money was taken from the store and the ordeal was captured on surveillance cameras.
An individual was arrested for disorderly conduct before the crowd moved into the store, Royster added.
City council member Jumaane Williams hurried to the scene as claims of a “riot” in Brooklyn spread over twitter.
Williams himself took to the social media site as he tried to calm the crowd.
“I’m in the middle of the riot action at Church and Snyder in my district. Right now, things are tense. Young people have expressed anger,” Williams tweeted.
“Tonight was a peaceful vigil that devolved into a riot,” he added. “The youth in this community have no outlets for their anger, no community center.”
Gray’s death has enraged many in the community and fueled competing versions of events.
According to the department, a pair of plainclothes officers in an unmarked car approached Gray and a number of other young men on a stoop at approximately 11:30 pm Saturday night.
A department press release claims Gray broke away from the group, adjusted his waistband and acted “in a suspicious manner.” When the officers identified themselves and asked that he show his hands, police say the teen produced a gun and pointed it at them. According to the NYPD, the officers responded by firing 11 shots, hitting Gray “several times.” He was transferred to Kings County Hospital Center where he was pronounced dead.
Police say they found a .38 caliber revolver near Gray’s body, with two expensed rounds and four live rounds remaining.
The officers–one a veteran of eight years, the other a veteran of five–were taken to New York Methodist Hospital for trauma and tinnitus. They have not been identified and have been placed on administrative duty while the shooting is investigated.
On Monday, a police source told the New York Daily News the department believes Gray was a Bloods gang member and referenced a pair of videos uploaded online. According to the Daily News, the first appears to show Gray smacking and taunting a 13 year-old rival Crips gang member. A second video purports to show the Crips’ retaliation, with young men in blue taunting Gray inside a McDonalds.
The Voice discovered videos of two separate incidents that appear to match the paper’s description. The first was hosted on the popular website World Star Hip Hop in October 2012 and was viewed nearly half a million times. In the video, a young man in a red-hooded sweatshirt slaps a young man in a blue hooded sweatshirt while the narrator says “shapow.” The phrase appears to have created something of a minor internet meme, with multiple videos posted in response, including some which show young men in blue “retaliating against the same bloods that were in the first video” at a McDonalds. The Voice was unable to confirm if the young man in the red sweatshirt was Gray, though comments on the videos suggest so.
Family and friends have called the department’s version of events into question and maintain the boy everyone knew as ‘Kiki’ was a good kid.
Gray’s sister, Mahnefah Gray, 19, told the New York Times that she never knew her little brother to carry a gun, and even if he did, he would know better than to point it at police.
“He has common sense,” she said.
Sharon Smith lives across the street from the scene of the shooting and claims she “saw everything.”
Gray and others were smoking marijuana on a stoop when a vehicle pulled up, Smith says.
“I was in my bedroom window smoking a cigarette,” Smith said. “Next thing I know, I saw a vehicle pulled up. When he pulled up they all jumped out the vehicle. When they jumped out of the vehicle everybody dispersed off the stoop.”
Smith claims approximately ten seconds passed before the shots began.
“They was like ‘freeze, freeze, freeze.’ But they just kept running and they just started shooting; ‘pow! pow! pow!’ I ducked,” Smith said. “When I got up I heard somebody say, ‘They just shot Kiki! They just shot Kiki!'”
Smith said her daughter was outside when the shooting took place. “[She] heard him say ‘don’t kill me, don’t kill me.’ And they say ‘stay still’ or they going to shoot you again.”
“When I got back up I saw all these police cars coming down 52nd Street. Coming down the block, coming down the block,” Smith added. While police say they found the gun near Gray’s body, Smith doesn’t believe it. “Then they went from house to house, house to house. Looking, looking, looking.”
Another woman who lives on the block where Gray was shot, a mother of three who declined to give her name, claimed the police did not order Gray to freeze.
“I was at my window and I heard him screaming, ‘Don’t shoot me. Don’t shoot me. I’m not running,'” she said.
“From I heard the first shot, I look through my window,” the woman added. “They didn’t say ‘freeze police.’ They didn’t say that.”
Melissa Lynch, 30, stood at the corner 52nd street and Church Ave late Monday night, where several dozen mourners had gathered as the situation slowly calmed down.
Lynch wore a black hooded sweatshirt with a photo of Gray in an orange knit cap and scarf. Above the image were the words “Kiki baby forever” in gold letters.
A family friend, Lynch described Gray as a “good kid” who was “sweet” and “genuine.”
She was at work when she heard he had been shot.
“I broke down,” she said.
Lynch, a mother of three, said she was struggling with the death of boy she had known for seven years.
“It hurts,” she said. “It hurts like hell.”