By Jake Pearson
For a third straight day, violent anti-police demonstrators gathered in East Flatbush Wednesday. By Thursday morning, 50 three police officers had been injured — one suffered a gash in the face after he was hit by an object tossed from a building — and 50 arrests reported.
The protests followed the fatal police shooting of a teenager over the weekend.
More than 100 people attended a candlelight vigil Wednesday night for 16-year-old Kimani "Kiki" Gray just blocks from where he was shot to by police Saturday night.
But anger was palpable as a group of young people heckled police officers in helmets and later marched down a street.
The vigil's organizers tried and failed to calm the young people, some of whom later threw bottles at police officers.
"I'm not going to tell people don't be angry because we're all angry," said Franclot Graham, whose teenage son, Ramarley Graham, was shot and killed after police chased him into his Bronx home last year. A New York police officer has been charged with manslaughter in the death. "It's OK to vent but you have to respect the family's wishes and be peaceful," he said.
A spokesman for Gray's parents said they would not speak publicly as long as there was violence, which he said has "clouded their message."
"It's a tough time for the community," said the spokesman, Rev. Gilford Monrose. "But the family and myself do not condone the violence."
The latest protest came after the medical examiner's office ruled that Gray was hit seven times, and had wounds in both the front and back of his body, including his shoulder, rib cage, forearm and legs.
The teen was with a group Saturday night, but left when he saw police in an unmarked car, police said. Authorities said he was acting suspicious and plain clothes officers approached him. According to police, Gray pointed a .38-caliber revolver at them, and they opened fire. He was pronounced dead at a hospital.
A gun was recovered at the scene.
Gray was black. The officers involved in the shooting were black and Hispanic. They have been placed on administrative duty.
A police officer may use deadly force when the officer has a reasonable fear of serious injury or death. Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said the shooting appeared to be within those guidelines.
But Gray's family maintains he wasn't armed, and people in his Brooklyn community were outraged over the shooting.
"I want to see justice," said Jamal Williams, 18, a friend who grew up with Gray in the same East Flatbush neighborhood. "I want to see these cops taken down."
On Monday, at a vigil for the teen, dozens of people threw bottles and damaged some stores. Police released surveillance video of two of the convenience stores, where people are seen throwing fruit and stealing. In one, the cashier cowers in a corner as people loot the shop.
"I don't think that should have any relationship to a peaceful demonstration," the police commissioner said of stealing from the registers.
Kelly said the group was disorderly, but didn't characterize it as a riot as some local newspapers did.
Rickford Burke, president of the New York Caribbean Institute and an organizer of Wednesday's vigil, said he condemned the looting. He said the disorderly response came from a deep feeling of frustration in the community that police officers regularly harass and target young black men.
"The police department has proven to be racially inattentive to black communities and this one is no different," he said.
A second cousin of the victim, Ray Charles, said he was devastated to learn of Gray's death — and was still having trouble accepting the NYPD's official version of events.
"My cousin was scared of guns," said Charles, 35. "I honestly just want justice. They didn't need to shoot him like that." Charles did not protest Wednesday night but said he encouraged people to take to the streets.
"The real issue in Brooklyn is cops have been harassing us for a long time," he said. "It needs to stop."