Officers in Kimani Gray shooting had prior stop & frisk lawsuits
Protests in East Flatbush last week stemming from the shooting of 16-year-old Kimani Gray by police officers on March 9 grew steadily calmer as the week wore on, after an explosion of violence on Wednesday night resulted in 45 arrests and one police officer injured.
City Councilman Jumaane Williams, who had come under fire for comments made accusing “outsiders” of inciting unprepared teens to violence, was able to direct a fair number of the protesters on Friday night into a nearby church for a community discussion, though a group did split off to march on to the police precinct, where someone eventually threw a bottle at police before the crowd dispersed.
Reports of a successful Youth Empowerment Seminar on Saturday preceded another night of protests. This time, on-scene reports indicated police vastly outnumbered protesters by a factor of nearly three-to-one.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg last week said he was not going to go out to East Flatbush because he didn’t want to “inflame things” but that he had “reached out to clergy and officials.”
He said he was planning on calling the mother of the deceased boy, but as of Sunday had still not made the call.
The mayor’s office did not respond to inquiries as to when the mayor was planning to call Mrs. Gray.
Conflicting reports of her son’s involvement in gangs have piled up, from Mrs. Gray herself telling WNYC she doesn’t think her son would ever carry a gun, but wasn’t sure, to reports from the NY Post of Facebook photos where Kimani Gray is making gang signs with his hands or videos in which he taunts a “young rival Crip.”
Experts on city gangs dismissed the Facebook and YouTube activity as amateur, and indications that Kimani’s gang involvement would have been extremely low-level; while teachers and neighbors spoke of a young man who “acted tough” but was serious about becoming an accountant and moving his family into a better neighborhood.
The principal at Kimani’s school in Manhattan said they “believed in his potential from the day he entered [the] school.”
“He traveled over an hour each day from East Flatbush… The year and a half we had with Kimani allowed us to get to know his best self,” Urban Assembly School of Design and Construction principal Matt Willoughby said.
Hit hard by loss of brother
Gray’s mother also talked about the effect her eldest son’s death two years ago had on Kimani: the older boy had apparently been a father figure to his younger sibling, and instrumental in keeping him in school and off the streets.
After his death, Kimani started staying out late because, he told her, he had nothing to come home to.
At the same time, the Grays had been displaced from their home and were reportedly living five-to-one-room in her brother’s apartment. They had finally moved into a new home a few days before Gray was shot by police. His mother said when she showed him the keys to the new house, he was so excited he “jumped as high as to the ceiling and said, ‘yes, we’re finally out of here!’”
The officers involved
The cops who shot Gray were identified last week as Sergeant Mourad Mourad and Officer Jovaniel Cordova.
According to NY1, one officer was involved in two prior lawsuits for alleged civil rights violations, and the other faced three similar lawsuits.
Some of those cases reportedly involved stop-and-frisk incidents, and city officials reportedly opted to pay settlements in all five cases.
City officials insisted that settlements do not indicate an acknowledgement of any wrong-doing, and that involvement in lawsuits do not necessarily indicate guilt.
A major stop-and-frisk lawsuit against the city commences Monday morning.
Community calls for experience and cultural sensitivity from police
Last week, members of the community suggested that a problem with the police force in the area is that they are often young and inexperienced: NYPD policy frequently places rookie cops in the worst areas of the city.
NYPD officials have previously said that the purpose of the Impact Program is to allow rookies to get important experience quickly.
In the case of the Kimani Gray shooting, Mourad was an 8-year veteran on the force, and Cordova had five years.
But community organizers maintained the point that more training is needed, and specific training, as repeated calls were made for cultural sensitivity by police officers when operating within the community.
Follow Danielle Tcholakian on Twitter @danielleiat