The only publicly identified eyewitness in the killing of a Brooklyn teen by two New York City police officers is standing by her claim that the young man was empty-handed when he was gunned down, and now says one of the cops involved threatened her life.
In an extended interview with the Village Voice Saturday night–one week to the day after 16-year-old Kimani Gray was killed–Tishana King, 39, provided new, vivid details about the 10th-grader’s final moments.
King said one officer stood “right over” Gray, continuing to shoot him while he was on the ground, and that neither cop identified himself as law enforcement when the incident began.
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Sgt. Mourad Mourad, 30, and Officer Jovaniel Cordova, 26, were identified as the officers involved in the shooting. Both are decorated members of the NYPD who have been involved in prior non-fatal shootings and received awards for their actions. They have also been targeted in five federal lawsuits stemming from allegations ranging from illegal stop-and-frisks to physical abuse, costing the city $215,000. Both have been placed on administrative duty while the investigation continues.
The police department says the officers were patrolling in East Flatbush in an unmarked car around 11:30 p.m. last weekend when they spotted a group of young men, one of whom adjusted his waistband in a manner the officers deemed suspicious. According to the police, the individual broke away from the group as the officers approached.
In a statement last week, NYPD spokesman Paul Browne said, “After the anti-crime sergeant and police officer told the suspect to show his hands, which was heard by witnesses, Gray produced a revolver and pointed it at the officers, who fired a total of 11 rounds, striking Gray several times.” A loaded .38-caliber Rohm’s Industry revolver was recovered at the scene.
Whether or not Gray had a gun, King said she never saw one pointed at the police. “I can’t say if they had one on them or not, but no one had a gun pointing at the cops,” she told the Voice.
King’s account, which contradicts the NYPD’s version of the events on key points, builds on what she first said in a New York Daily News article published last Tuesday. King told the paper she was “certain [Gray] didn’t have anything in his hands.” The article described a tape-recorded interview she gave to police investigators hours after the shooting. A police spokesman told the paper that when investigators asked King what she saw, she told them “she couldn’t see what the boys were doing ‘from the angle I was at.'”
But King told the Voice that from her third-floor vantage point, “I can see everything.” A street light illuminates the area where the incident took place.
Speaking to the Voice on her stoop Saturday evening, King made her first comments on the case since NYPD responded to her claims. She confirmed that she was interviewed by police–“about two hours after” the shooting–and says she has not been interviewed by the department since.
When asked if she saw a gun at any point during the incident, King told the Voice, “No. Not from the kids.”
An internal NYPD report cited by the Daily News stated that the officers wore badges around their necks. King said she didn’t see any: “No. No badges.”
NYPD commissioner Ray Kelly has said the department has three “ear witnesses to the shooting,” two of who said they heard the officers say “Don’t move” and a third who claims to have heard an officer ask, “What do you have in your hands?”
King claims the officers said only one thing after stepping onto the sidewalk, “‘Don’t move.’ That’s it.”
Gray was shot “on the sidewalk” two driveways down from her building, King says, near the home of a pair of twins he often visited. The kids hadn’t been around much in recent months, she added. King said she was in bed when the sound of loud voices and laughter drew her to her window last Saturday night.
“That’s why I looked out,” she said. ” To just see, ‘Oh, hey, what’s going on?’ Then when I saw it was the kids visiting, I said ‘Oh, okay.'”
Peering out from the third-story of her brick building, King claims to have seen “about seven to eight” young people. She said they had only been gathered for “maybe a minute or two” before the police arrived. “There was no suspicious behavior. The worst they were doing, laughing out loud and, you know, talking loud. That’s about it,” King said.
When asked if she recognized any of the kids, Gray said, “Just a few. I know the twins because they’re my direct next-door neighbors.” In addition to the twins, King also claims to have been familiar with Gray, though prior to the shooting she says she knew him only by his nickname, “Kiki.”
“I know him from his friends and always being in the neighborhood and visiting the twins,” she said. “He’s always a frequent visitor.” King said she recognized Gray’s voice outside the night he was killed.
King could not confirm what direction Gray was facing at the time he was shot. “I’m not the shooter. I wouldn’t be able to tell you. If I had the gun and I was shooting at him I’d be able to answer that question,” she said. King said the officers “looked white, from what I was seeing.” News reports have indicated, however, that Sgt. Mourad is Egyptian.
After the gunfire subsided, King claims the officer who “did the most shooting” put his hands on his head “like, ‘Oh my God.'” She describes him as “the main shooter.”
“That’s the one I was focused on,” she explained. “He just kept shooting while [Gray] was on the ground.” When asked how close the officer was when he was shooting Gray, King said, “right over him.”
“I thought he was dead,” King said. That’s when Gray began to scream. “‘Help me. Help me. My stomach is burning. Help me. They shot me,'” she said the teen cried out. Friends have said Gray was approximately 5’6″ and weighed at most about 100 pounds. King described him as “frail” and said she was surprised he was not killed instantly. “I didn’t think anybody could take those amount of bullets,” she added.
“I just remember screaming out the window ‘Why?! Why so much?!” King recalled. She claims the “main shooter”‘s partner–“with the short haircut”–responded.
“He started waving his gun up at our windows, myself and my neighbor. ‘Get your F-ing head out the window before I shoot you.'” King said she and her neighbor “jumped back.”
“I told the authorities that,” she said. “You threatened our lives and we didn’t even do anything.”
King says a number of questions continue to bother her. “Why did they exit their vehicles? Why were they in our neighborhood? Why were they on our block? What was the reason? Why didn’t you follow protocol?”
“The scene just keeps replaying in my head,” she told the Voice, “over and over and over and over and over again.”
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on March 18, 2013