Outsiders Rile Residents After Police Kill Teen

fromWNYC

It's been more than a week since 16-year-old Kimani Gray of Brooklyn, New York, was shot dead by two undercover officers. The police say the teen pointed a revolver at them. The area is now heavily policed after nightly vigils turned violent.

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Night after night in a New York City neighborhood, protesters have been confronting police. The protesters in that section of Brooklyn are calling attention to a police shooting. Two undercover officers killed a 16-year-old earlier this month. The officers say Kimani Gray pointed a revolver at them. From member station WNYC in New York, Stephen Nessen reports on what followed.

(SOUNDBITE OF BARRICADES BEING SET UP)

STEPHEN NESSEN, BYLINE: Around 7 p.m., dozens of police begin setting up barricades on this busy commercial block in the predominantly Caribbean neighborhood of East Flatbush, Brooklyn. As the sun sets, police slip on riot helmets and link metal barricades with white plastic handcuffs. They're here because nightly vigils for Kimani Gray have twice turned violent.

(SOUNDBITE OF ANGRY VOICES)

NESSEN: One night, a Rite Aid pharmacy was ransacked by dozens.Another night, bottles were hurled at police, resulting in 46 arrests. Shawn Burgundy is a family friend of the Grays. He stops by the corner vigil, where dozens of candles burn. Burgundy lives in the area, and says activists from across the city have been coming in, riling up local residents.

SHAWN BURGUNDY: The outsiders come in, and then they get the people pumped back up. Then they back at it again - arguing with the police, throwing bottles and all this other stuff, not knowing that it is all looking bad on the family, on Kiki's family, you know.

NESSEN: The family denies Gray had a gun. They say he was at a Sweet 16 party the night of the shooting. Police say on March 9th, around 11:30 p.m., Gray was with a group of people when two plainclothed policemen approached him. They say he pointed a 38-caliber revolver at the officers. They opened fire, hitting Gray seven times in the front and back of his body. Police recovered an unfired revolver with four bullets in the chamber.

The investigation is ongoing, but the officers involved have been charged with unlawful stop and frisks in the past. Those cases settled out of court, but many are already making connections between Gray, Trayvon Martin, and another unarmed New York teen shot by police last year, Ramarley Graham.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting) Our streets! Whose streets?Our streets! No justice? No peace!

NESSEN: The nightly vigils draw outraged Flatbush residents and also, the same people who spent nights in Zuccotti Park during Occupy Wall Street.Local councilman Jumaane Williams attends, and says the gatherings are about more than just one shooting.

JUMAANE WILLIAMS: You would not see what we saw if it was only about one shooting. It's about the constant years of stop, question and frisk. It's about the constant way that police departments interact with our young people. It's about the fact that we have no other resources in this community besides the police. It's about not having a community center within three miles of here.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: No justice for Kimani Gray! No justice for...

NESSEN: Last Friday, Williams and nearly a hundred protesters marched to the site of the shooting. They were flanked by several dozen police on motorcycles, horses and on foot.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: No justice for Kimani Gray! No justice for...

NESSEN: Across the street, 11-year-old Marquise Horne and his friends watch the scene. Not yet a teen, Horn already has a jaded view of the police.

MARQUISE HORNE: They're not serving us. They just killing us.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: Killing us!

MARQUISE: Like, everybody starting to die because of these cops. And then, they want to look around and act like it's not they - fault.

NESSEN: Horne says he was there the night of the shooting.

MARQUISE: When I came out here, when I seen him on the ground over there, he said, help. But then when we tried to help him, the cops told us that we had to move back.

NESSEN: The officers involved have been put on administrative duties while the investigation continues. Depending on the outcome, Kimani Gray's name could enter the lexicon as a synonym for police brutality, or glorified gun culture, or both. Either way, he's already joined the macabre crew of young black men killed before reaching adulthood. Protesters pledge to march for 16 nights to honor the 16-year-old. His funeral is planned for later this week.

For NPR News, I'm Stephen Nessen in New York.

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