The mother of a Brooklyn teen gunned down by two Brooklyn police officers stepped out of a meeting with the district attorney Thursday to deliver harsh words for a department she believes is deeply racist.
Read more: Everybody Wants a Piece of Kimani Gray
Carol Gray, the mother of Kimani Gray, a 16 year-old of Guyanese and Jamaican descent who was shot to death by police in East Flatbush last month, argued the NYPD’s treatment of communities of color is radically different than its practices in predominantly white neighborhoods.
“The community we come from, is like, these police officers, they’re white supremacists,” Gray told reporters outside district attorney Charles Hynes’ Brooklyn office. “They have no value for black childrens’ life. They don’t know how they get along. They don’t know how they get education. They don’t know nothing about them.”
Gray said young people in her community are never addressed “like a real civilian” with “‘Hello, how you doing?’ or ‘Can I speak to you for a minute?'”
“No,” she said. “It’s never that.”
Gray’s son was shot late in the evening on March 9. Sgt. Mourad Mourad, 30, and Officer Jovaniel Cordova, 26, two plainclothes officers in an unmarked car, had spotted him with group of other young men gathered outside a home. According to the police department, Gray adjusted his waistband in a suspicious manner then broke away from the group as the officers approached. When the officers exited their vehicle, the police say Gray pointed a gun at them. He was shot seven times; three times in the front and four times in the back. A loaded .38 caliber pistol was found at the scene.
The police department’s version of events has been called into question by members of the community. An eyewitnesses claims the Gray had nothing in his hands when he was shot, that the officers never identified themselves before opening fire and that they continued shooting as he lay on the ground. Several others have said Gray begged for mercy and help during the incident. The teen’s death sparked a series of protests that on March 13 culminated in nearly 50 arrests, as scores of young people ran through the streets, some throwing bottles and bricks at police officers.
Earlier in the day civil rights attorney Cynthia Conti-Cook, filed a motion to dismiss charges against three individuals arrested during the March 13 demonstration, including a member of Copwatch, an organization that documents police practices and aims to highlight abuse. Approximately three dozen anti-police brutality activists rallied in front of Brooklyn’s Central Court Building in support of the motion. The activists read from a statement issued by city councilman Jumaane Williams, who represents the district where Gray was killed.
“I ask Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes for his serious reconsideration of the damage that could be significant to young people’s futures as well as to a community that is looking to move forward in a positive and constructive manner,” Williams’ statement said. “The copwatchers, which are a valuable resource to our neighborhoods that are working to build stronger relationships with the police, as well as our young people should not bear this on their records.”
District Attorney Hynes’ office is investigating the Gray shooting. City councilman Charles Barron, a frequent critic of the NYPD, joined Carol Gray in her discussion with the DA. Barron said Hynes “assured” them that his office is “heavily focused” on the investigation.
“They’re saying that they still gotta go through witnesses,” Barron said. The city councilman said he believes there is evidence that contradicts the department’s claims.
“We want a grand jury impaneled and we want him to seek indictments,” he said. “We believe that there’s no evidence or eyewitnesses out there that can corroborate what the police are saying, and the fact that we’re still out here, it’s still under investigation and demonstrations are still going on, says that this is a very, very live case.”
Barron called for ongoing demonstrations. “We never get anywhere without demonstrations and protests,” he said. “That’s the only time we get indictments.” In the absence of an indictment, Barron said the family would “go to the US attorney for a violation of his civil rights to move about peacefully in his community.”
Both Sgt. Mourad and Officer Cordova are decorated members of the police department 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. The department placed the officers on administrative duty following the shooting.
Barron said the officers don’t belong on the job; “We’re saying to commissioner Kelly, these cops should not have been on the force…They already have a track record of having been conjuring up, making up information, false arrest. The city had to pay out of their pockets five times against these two guys.”
Less than two weeks after Gray was killed, a landmark federal trial began in lower Manhattan alleging the NYPD has engaged in widespread constitutional rights violations through its controversial stop and frisk practices, including racial profiling. Over the course of a decade police stops in New York City exploded by over 600 percent, with nearly nine out of ten those stopped released without a summons or arrest, the vast majority of them black or Latino. In 2011, the 67th precinct, which patrols Gray’s neighborhood, ranked second in the city in stops that failed to prove wrongdoing, with nearly 94 percent of the stops resulting in no charges.
“They’re very much related,” Barron told The Voice. “It’s not stop and frisk. It’s racial profiling”
“Kimani was stopped because he was black,” he added. “Not because he was doing anything wrong. And his racial profiling stop led to these guys unjustifiably taking his life.”
NYPD officials frequently note that the department is among the most diverse in the country, and indeed neither of the officers involved in Gray’s shooting are white.
“Diversity is irrelevant,” Barron said. “Policies are racist. Black, Latino and white police officers police black and Latino communities differently from white communities. That’s the bottom line and it’s racist no matter who’s doing it.”
Carol Gray said there has been “a lot of anger” in her home since Kimani died. Two years ago her oldest son, Jahma, was killed in an automobile accident. Losing Kimani, her sixth child, has had a profound impact on her children, Gray said.
“This is someone who was really trying real hard,” she said. “Kimani wants to go far in life and Kimani has dreams. Kimani was still a teenager.”
Gray acknowledged that her son had been in trouble with the law before-he had been arrested for riding in a stolen car and once for creating a disturbance in a McDonald’s-but she is quick to point that young people get into trouble, and that it is often more severe if they are not white.
“Yeah, he has infractions with the law. Minor. What teenagers don’t get in trouble?” she said. “I rode a train many Saturday nights and I see a lot of white children on the train. They drunk and everything. White children carry guns. White children sell drugs, but they’re getting stopped and ‘freeze,’ and Kimani gets shot down instead of asking a question.”