March 12, 2013
A calm protest in New York City suddenly turned violent yesterday as police arrived to monitor the procession, reports claim.
Younger demonstrators allegedly became infuriated while honoring their peer 16-year-old Kimani “Kiki” Gray, who was gunned down Saturday by plain-clothes officers on a Brooklyn street.
Nearly 100 people united Monday night to mourn Gray’s death and to raise awareness of police brutality, but riot police were summoned after several protesters vented their frustration by knocking over garbage cans, smashing out windows and even raiding area businesses.
DNAInfo.com reports, “As riot police filled the streets, the crowd also surged into the Rite Aid on Church Avenue near Albany Street and trashed it about 9:15 p.m., pulling items off the shelves and attacking the store manager, clerks and security guard, the FDNY said. The group stole some items from the store and cash from the register, sources said.”
It’s not clear what caused the solemn candlelight vigil to turn violent; some believe protesters became agitated when they realized there was no city representative attending the memorial; others say the sight of police sparked the riot, which ended in the arrest of only one person and the hospitalization of another for a head injury.
Reports regarding Kimani’s death also vary.
According to The New York Times:
The police said the officers, patrolling in an unmarked car in East Flatbush, came upon the teenager … in a group of men just before 11:30 p.m. The teenager separated himself from the group and adjusted his waistband in what the police described as a suspicious manner. As officers got out of the car to question him, Mr. Gray turned and pointed a .38-caliber Rohm revolver at them, the police said; two officers fired, hitting the teenager. He was pronounced dead a short time later at Kings County Hospital Center.
Mr. Gray did not fire the handgun, which was recovered at the scene. Paul J. Browne, the chief spokesman for the Police Department, said the six-shot revolver was loaded with four live rounds.
However, local news team WPIX11 found at least one witness that says Kimani was “running for his life” when he was shot dead:
“He was running for his life, telling the cops, “Stop,” said witness Camille Johnson. ”They really are, seriously, walking around, shooting little kids.”
Two police officers reportedly fired 11 rounds at Gray when he pointed a .38-caliber Rohm revolver at them, according to police.
A woman who lives in the area said she witnessed two people, presumably the plain-clothes officers, standing over Gray after the shooting while the boy lay on the sidewalk, pleading, “Please don’t let me die.” The woman said she heard police reply, “Stay down or we’ll shoot you again.”
Initial claims that Gray had been “in a group of men” have also been disputed by his friends, who say he was returning from a baby shower just moments before the shooting took place.
“The baby shower was around the corner. He walked with me and a friend, and he said ‘Stop right here,’ so we stopped,” his friend Jamal Williams told NY1.com. “Three of us got into a van and we drove around the corner. We went back to the baby shower. As soon as we parked up, we got the call that said he got shot by a cop.”
And still others are questioning whether an actual riot took place, at least in the way that news reports described it. Several posts allege the media were spinning the event to portray a rowdy, unruly crowd that necessitates monitoring and riot police, as there is another demonstration scheduled to begin at 8 p.m. Tuesday at East 55th Street and Church Avenue.
“The whole community is fed up,” says Sandra Mitchelin, 42, one of the organizers of the vigil who also has a 14-year-old daughter. “They come out and attack these kids like they’re gang bangers… These were 13, 14, 15-year-olds at a party. It never deserved to go down how it went down.”
“We need to have an investigation,” Mitchelin told DNAInfo.com. “We need somebody to say something.”
Police also stated the boy had prior arrests.