NEW YORK – In the East Flatbush community of Brooklyn, N.Y. where 16-year-old Kimani Gray was shot dead by undercover officers of the New York City Police Department (NYPD) last Saturday, the grief is still raw and emotions are running high as one church group struggles to stanch the pain.
On Friday, under the watch of a battalion of NYPD officers patrolling the community in squad cars, on foot and horses, residents of the community struggled to contain their simmering anger. It had already erupted this week in looting and rioting resulting in the arrest of at least 46 people by the NYPD late Wednesday, according to one report.
Kimani Gray was reportedly shot dead by two plainclothes police officers after he ran from a group of young people on their approach. Police say he pointed a .38-caliber revolver at the officers and he was told to "freeze" before he was shot. They said they recovered a loaded gun at the scene.
Residents of the community, however, tell a different story and it is this dispute that has further fractured a relationship that was already troubled by the shooting of Shantel Davis in the community in 2012.
"He was nice, he was a nice little boy. I've known him since he was four and I didn't know him as a troublemaker. That's why this has shocked everybody," home health aide Tricia Gordon told The Christian Post on a visit to the largely West Indian community on Friday.
The chilly winter wind had blown out the light from many of the candles at a memorial set up in honor of the teen's life at the corner of Church and E 54th Street and she was relighting as many of them in preparation for another community vigil on Friday night.
"Mr., The Police is a [expletive]," she said as she looked over a picture of the dead boy.
Gilford Monrose, president of the 67th Precinct Clergy Council and pastor of the Mount Zion Church of God, says his team has been offering support as needed to the Gray family and for the last two years have been giving support to families of victims of gun violence.
In the two years, the group has been in operation, they have responded to ten deaths, two of which were NYPD-related. "The bigger issue we have in our community is gun violence and gangs and we help the community tremendously because we offer any family whose son or daughter is killed on the streets of Brooklyn, spiritual support and we guide them through the grieving process," Monrose told CP. "If someone is arrested and there is need for dialogue between the community and the NYPD. We try to come out and be that solid voice in those situations," he added.
But Gordon says that kind of relationship between the NYPD and the East Flatbush community is more of an exception rather than the rule.
"The only time we see the 67th Precinct come out like this is when they have killed somebody," she said. "And why call yourself the 67th Precinct when you know how things are in the community," she noted of the Clergy Council's name.
"People are scared," said one senior citizen who would only identify herself as a retired nurse. "Everyone is now concerned about their kids. I pray night and day for my nephew," she added.