(Photo: The Christian Post/Leonardo Blair)
NEW YORK –For a moment during his funeral service on Saturday, nothing could console the mother of 16-year-old Kimani Gray who was shot dead by two undercover officers of the New York City Police Department (NYPD) in East Flatbush, Brooklyn, N.Y., on March 9.
Hundreds of mourners who had crammed the St. Catherine of Genoa Catholic Church in the community watched in helpless silence as Carol Gray removed the shades she had used to cover her eyes, draped her body across her son's coffin that sat before the altar, and disrupted her mostly muted display of grief with a wail that pierced the quiet of the somber service in angry defiance.
"Kimani, Kimani, Kimani," she screamed as if attempting to call him back from the dead. "No! No! No! No! Kimaniii!" New York City Councilman Charles Barron and other grieving family members comforted her until the wave of anguish had subsided.
Before that, the officiating pastor of the service, who declined to confirm his name with The Christian Post, had tried earnestly to comfort the family with his message of hope and spiritual accountability. He also suggested that perhaps God may have taken Kimani to "snatch him out of wickedness."
"We are here this morning to pray that God may have mercy on him (Kimani) in judging him and bring him to heaven. It's not easy to bury a son or a daughter. It should be the other way around. But it happens," he said.
The pastor urged many of Kimani's young friends who had showed up to bid him farewell to see his death as a wake-up call.
"As young people God is speaking to you. When you wake up as a young man as a young woman, what is life for you? Is it hanging out?" he asked. "You can waste your life but you have to account for your life to God," he said.
He also told parents in the audience that God would hold them responsible for how they raised their children.
"What sacrifice did you make?" asked the pastor. "It's easy to blame the children but it's in moments like this that God speaks to us dearly and sincerely. Everyone here will have to account before God. It hurts when you see a young man or young woman trying so hard and then they die," he added.
Kimani's grief-stricken uncle identified only as "Uncle Paul", struggled through his eulogy highlighting the life of a teenager who had high hopes and loved to be around people.
He said at the time of his death, Kimani was a student of the Urban Assembly School of Design and Construction and he travelled for more than one hour each day to get to school. Kimani was also taking an extra class in English because he "loved the power of words." He also loved watching cartoons like The Avengers, the science fiction series Supernatural and the music of rappers Meek Mill and Chief Keef.
"He understood that things may not always be easy but it is important to appreciate and enjoy life. Though his time with us was way too short, his larger than life personality and spirit will endure in the hearts of everyone lucky enough to have known him," said Kimani's uncle. His body was interred at the Cypress Hills Cemetery in Brooklyn.
Kimani Gray was killed by two undercover NYPD officers on March 9, who said the teen pointed a .38 revolver at them when he was ordered to "freeze." Members of the community and his family have disputed that account of what happened, however, and are calling for an independent investigation of Kimani's death.
A rally for justice is planned for Sunday at Church Avenue and East 55th Street in the community.