Councilman Warns of More Violence After Vigil for Teen Killed by Cops
CITY HALL — The day after violence erupted at a vigil for a 16-year-old boy who was fatally shot by police, City Councilman Jumaane Williams warned Police Commissioner Ray Kelly to expect more violence unless relations between the NYPD and the residents of his district improved.
The vigil for Kimani Gray — who was killed by police on Saturday night while allegedly carrying a .38 caliber pistol — devolved Monday night in East Flatbush when attendees hurled bottles at cops, smashed shop windows, looted a Rite Aid and attacked a patron with a wine bottle, officials said.
Another vigil for Gray scheduled for Tuesday night was postponed, Williams tweeted.
Williams, who rushed to the scene Monday night, blamed the outburst on years of simmering anger and frustration in the community, and accused Kelly of not spending enough time interacting with people in the neighborhood.
"If we don’t talk to the anger issue, more of it will happen, and possibly worse," Williams told Kelly during a heated exchange at a City Council hearing on the NYPD's proposed 2014 budget. “The trust is tremendously eroded. That is a fact that is lost on you and lost on the mayor."
Williams also accused Kelly of trying to downplay the melee, which Kelly had referred to as a "disturbance."
“I don’t classify it as just a disturbance. I think that it kind of belittles a lot of the anger that was there," Williams said, inviting Kelly to spend the afternoon with him walking the streets.
But Kelly dismissed the invitation as a "photo op" and said he spends plenty of time visiting with community leaders.
“I’ll do what I think is best for the people of this city," he said.
Kelly also provided new details on the violence, which he said began when a small group splintered off from the vigil at 55th Street and Church Avenue, and began heading toward the NYPD's 67th precinct.
"As they were moving, several of them ran down the street and they started taking fruit from a fruit stand, threw it at police officers," said Kelly, who visited the scene late Monday night.
At the Rite Aid, the group allegedly knocked products from the shelves and assaulted a 51-year-old customer, punching him and striking him in the head with a wine bottle when he tried to stop the group from making off with a cash register.
They then stole his cell phone before running out, police said.
Kaven Menard, 19, a Brooklyn resident, was charged with robbery in connection with the incident, police said.
“They trashed the location," Kelly continued. They also caused other damage, breaking bus windows, and pushing in the front door of another store.
Kelly said that the uproar lasted for approximately half an hour before additional police officers arrived on scene.
The NYPD is currently analyzing video footage captured by cameras inside the store, and Kelly said that he anticipated arrests would be made for the assault.
Kelly also spoke about the shooting Saturday night.
While the two officers who fired shots had not yet been interviewed by police investigators, he said that two witnesses at the scene reported officers saying, "Freeze" and “Don’t move. What do you have in your hands?”
A .38 caliber revolver, which police believe was sold in Florida, was recovered at the scene.
“There’s nothing to indicate that this shooting at this time was outside the guidelines," said Kelly, who added that, regardless of community frustrations, “nothing" justified the violence Monday night.
Organizers had been planning another vigil Tuesday evening, and Kelly said police were prepared.
“We’ll certainly have a significant number of police officers present,” he said.
Following the hearing, Williams dismissed Kelly's response as "foolishness" and said his attitude would only make matters worse.
“People are angry. I feel it. I hear it. I know it. And it sucks when you're trying to tell the people who can actually do something about it and they’re refusing to listen and they’re refusing to respond," he said. “I think the people are going to continue to rise up if we don’t address some of these issues.”