Eyewitness "Certain" Kimani Gray Was Unarmed When Police Shot Him
The NYPD's allegation that Gray "pointed" a gun at police was reported in virtually every major New York City news outlet over the weekend (here, here, here, here, here). The department has not yet responded to requests for clarification on the source of the claim.
Dwayne Charles, 17, was returning home from a track meet, coming out of the subway at Nostrand and Church Avenue, when he got a call that Gray had been shot. The boys had been friends since the 1st grade.
Wearing a blue hoodie with a photo of Gray printed on the front, Charles stood at the same intersection Wednesday night. He described the moment he got the news.
"I'm like, 'Alright, I'm about to be on my way,'" he said. "Hop in a dollar cab. I reach on New York [Avenue]. They like, 'Kiki just died.'"
Since that moment Charles says he has struggled to cope. "Anytime I get any alone time," he said, "my mind goes crazy."
"A lot of my friends died, but it didn't hit me like Kiki," he added. "He was a good kid that got caught up in the wrong situation."
Charles doubts Gray had a gun, but if he did, he'd be wise enough not to point it at the police, he says.
"Kiki is not just smart. He's street smart also," Charles explained. "He knows not to do something like that. He would never do something like that."
The shooting has struck a chord with many in the East Flatbush neighborhood where he died.
On Monday, a vigil was held, as well as a march to the NYPD's 67th precinct. The scene turned chaotic, however, when a splinter group broke from the main crowd. Approximately 60 individuals rushed into a Rite-Aid pharmacy, overturned displays, pulled a cash register down (though the department says no money was taken), struck a customer over the head with a wine bottle-resulting in a trip to the emergency room-and assaulted the store's manager.
Videos from inside the store were posted online Tuesday. The splinter group also trashed a fruit stand, threw objects at police and broke bus windows, witnesses and the department said.
On Tuesday, Gray's family requested that a second vigil, scheduled for last night, be postponed. Still, nearly 200 demonstrators, including a significant number from outside the community, marched through East Flatbush chanting at police in riot gear Tuesday evening.
Police sources have pointed out that Gray's criminal record includes charges of "grand larceny, possession of stolen property and inciting a riot."
On Monday, a police source told the Daily News the department believes Gray was a Bloods gang member and referenced a pair of online videos. The Voice discovered videos of two separate incidents that appear to match the paper's description.
In the first recorded incident, a teen in a red-hooded sweatshirt slaps another teen in a blue hooded sweatshirt in the face while the narrator says "shapow." The video indicates the teen in the red sweater is a Blood, while the teen in the blue was a rival Crip. The Voice was unable to confirm if the young man in the red sweatshirt was Gray, though comments on the videos suggest so.
When asked about "shapow," Charles bristled. "What that have to do with this?" he asked. "It don't justify shooting him 11 times."
"That's what the news portraying him as, as a gang member," he said.
Charles neither confirmed nor denied Gray's alleged gang affiliation, arguing instead that young males in his neighborhood band together for protection. "It's not even a gang, it's family," he said. "You have to have friends with you. You grow up by yourself, you getting robbed, you getting stabbed."
In addition to street violence, Charles says guys in his area worry about being harassed by the police. He says he's stopped by the cops "everyday." Charles says officers and youth in the neighborhood often know each other well, but rarely on positive terms. He said this was this case with Gray.
"They been harassing Kiki," Charles said. "They were out for him."
He claims at least one officer was aware that Gray's older brother had died in a car accident two years ago, and he had made light of it.
"One time Kiki and me was in Kennedy Fried Chicken, they came in the store," he said. "They came in the store, like, 'How your brother doing?'" Charles says Gray attempted to ignore the question and walk away but it didn't work; "He was about to get up and leave, they was like 'sit the fuck down before I shoot you. Sit the fuck down.'"
At Tuesday's budget hearing, city council member Jumaane Williams, who represents the district where Gray was killed, addressed Monday night's unrest in a pointed exchange with Commissioner Kelly. Williams argued resentment in his district is the result of systemic problems.
"We're not going to pretend that what happened yesterday is just one incident," Williams said. "It is not the details of one shooting. It is about how you and the NYPD and the Mayor have reacted to these communities. It is about years of not being heard."
The sentiment resonated with Charles; "When stuff happening, they ain't out here helping nobody."
"They not protecting us. They just killing us," he said. "They went over the line this time."