A pair of New York City police officers responsible for killing a Brooklyn teen last weekend have been named in five federal lawsuits on allegations ranging from illegal stop and frisks to physical abuse.
According to court records reviewed by the New York Daily News, settlements resulting from suits against Sgt. Mourad Mourad and Officer Jovaniel Cordova have cost the city $215,000.
Mourad and Cordova shot Kimani “Kiki” Gray seven times around 11:30 p.m. last Saturday. The teen was hit four times from the front and three times from the back. He died from his wounds at Kings County Hospital Center. The department claims Gray pointed a .38 caliber revolver at both officers and was gunned down as a result.
– Tensions Mount After Police Fatally Shoot Brooklyn Teenager Kimani Gray
– Eyewitness “Certain” Kimani Gray Was Unarmed When Police Shot Him
– Police and Protesters Clash at Kimani Gray Vigil in Brooklyn
The only civilian eyewitness to come forward in the case has claimed she is “certain” Gray had nothing in his hands when his was shot, but previously told internal affairs investigators that she could not see what Gray and number of other teens were doing “from the angle I was at.”
Many members of the community have rejected the department’s version of events and some have said they heard Gray begging for his life during the incident. For five consecutive nights, demonstrators have taken to the streets to voice their anger over Gray’s death and express their frustration with the NYPD.
The protests have varied in degrees of intensity. On Monday night a splinter group broke from a larger crowd of mourners and charged into a pharmacy, overturning displays and assaulting two people inside. Tuesday was largely calm, with roughly 200 people-including many activists and New Yorkers from outside the community-peacefully marching to the NYPD’s 67th precinct. Wednesday night emotions boiled over, as young people ran through the streets, smashed the windows out of police vehicles and tossed bricks and bottles at the cops. Dozens of people were arrested, including some as young as 13 and others who claim they were swept up while trying to get home.
Mourad and Cordova have been placed on administrative duty as the investigation into the Gray shooting continues.
Mourad, who is 30, was targeted in three lawsuits while working as a plainclothes officer in Staten Island.
In May 2007, Derek Franks received a $92,500 settlement for a suit against Mourad and a number of other officers following claims that he was illegally stopped and searched, an ordeal that landed him four months on Rikers Island.
Andre Maraj and Dary Harville both received $20,000 after alleging that Mourad “slammed” Harville into a vehicle.
Jontel Sebbern alleged Mourad and other officers ordered him out of car, searched him and “pulled his pants and underwear.” He received a $20,000 settlement.
On Thursday, the Daily News reported Officer Cordova had “no disciplinary record” but by Friday it was revealed the 26-year-old had been the subject of a number of abuse allegations.
Peter Owusu claimed he suffered “emotional distress” after Cordova handcuffed him facedown in a puddle of water. Owusu received $22,500. Meanwhile, Steve Morency said he had to get stitches after Cordova illegally stopped him in a building and punched him in the face. He was awarded $35,000.
In all but one of the cases, prosecutors dismissed the plaintiffs’ arrests. Both Mourad and Cordova have been involved in previous shootings, neither of which were fatal. They both received awards for their actions.
Attorney Brett Klein filed four of the five suits against the pair. He told the Daily News, “Our clients’ interactions with Sgt. Mourad and Officer Cordova expose a disturbing pattern of unconstitutional and aggressive stop-and-frisk practices.”
“In each case, Mourad and Cordova attempted to cover up their misconduct by falsifying and fabricating evidence,” Klein added.
City Law Department spokeswoman Elizabeth Thomas stressed that, “Being named in a lawsuit is not an indication of wrongdoing, and neither is settlement.”
East Flatbush has experienced a visibly increased police presence since the demonstrations began Monday night.
Interlocking police barricades now line the sidewalk where mourners have built a makeshift memorial for Gray at the intersection of 55th and Church Avenue. Police officers can often be seen on a rooftop across the street, monitoring the situation below. Officers on horseback wait on side streets and uniformed patrol cops stand guard outside local businesses.
For some in the community, the NYPD presence has become more than they can bear.
“This whole week, nobody has gotten any sleep,” Mark King, 22, told the Voice.
King said police helicopters hover above his neighborhood at all hours, keeping residents up with their spotlights and whirling rotor-blades.
“It’s been a nightmare,” he said.
Still others are happy to see more police in the East Flatbush. Kendell Baptiste said he wished it was normal. The 16-year-old worries about street crime and says the police rarely bother him.
“I feel more secure around them, if anything,” he said. “I would love it if it was like this everyday.”
On Friday night approximately 100 demonstrators visited the home where Gray was shot. Standing next to a pile of flowers and candles, Michelle Thomas repeated over and over, “This is where they killed Kimani Gray.”
To many in the neighborhood, Gray was a familiar personality. Thomas said she had known him since he was six-years-old. She urged anyone who might have witnessed his final moments to come forward.
“I want to say something to the people on the block that seen and that heard,” Thomas said. “Whatever you seen, whatever you heard, please say something.”
As Thomas spoke, Joe Holder, 28, Gray’s cousin, squatted to light the candles. He shook his head slightly before standing up, tears welling in his eyes.
“People, it hurts,” he said softly.
Update: An earlier version of this post suggested a quote attributed to the eyewitness in the Gray shooting — “from the angle I was at” — was first reported Friday. It was not. It was first reported Wednesday and repeated Friday.