EAST FLATBUSH — More than a hundred people gathered Saturday at the site of a police-involved shooting that left a 23-year-old suspect dead to memorialize the woman as a victim of unnecessary force by the NYPD.
Dozens of community members, church groups, and local residents amassed at noon at the corner of East 38th Street and Church Avenue, where a car chase played out on Thursday, between undercover police and Shantel Davis — who cops said had a criminal history and was witnessed to be driving dangerously and running red lights. Davis' vehicle collided with an oncoming minivan as she ran a red light, cops said, but the unarmed woman was dead moments, not from the crash, but from the bullet of on-duty officer Detective Phil Atkins' gun.
Among the groups was the National Action Network, the New Black Panther Party, the International Socialist Organization, Stop Stop and Frisk, Asheo, and Messiah International, all with members expressing anger at the NYPD's use of unnecessary force and weapons when Davis was approached by police.
"We need an apology," marchers chanted outside the 67th Precinct. At one point during the march from the meeting point, the refrain, "Racist cops, you can't hide, we charge you with genocide," was picked up and repeated in chorus.
The gathering started as a memorial, and family members and friends of Davis turned out to remember the young woman.
Within an hour, the vigil transformed into an organized march, and mourners and residents began a 15-block trek to the 67th Precinct, where the detective responsible for Davis' death works.
East Flatbush resident Angela Brown, 54, who wore a "Stop Stop and Frisk" button on her shirt, chanted loudly with the crowd around her.
"It is despicable, these renegade cops must be stopped," she said. "They are here to protect and serve, not stop and kill."
Another nearby resident said it was good to see action finally being taken in the neighborhood.
"It's good to see people coming out for solidarity," said Tyrell Muhammed, who lives two blocks away. "It brings a self-awareness that there has to be a change." The Nation of Islam member said he knows the family well. "They're distraught, they're devastated," he said.
The family refused to speak, but stood behind Councilmember Jumaane Williams and leaders from the National Action Network, Al Sharpton's civil rights organization. The group and Williams said they are collaborating on a letter to Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, asking that the NYPD come out to the community and initiate a dialogue about what happened.
"We want better police and community relations," said Williams. "We are hoping this letter will have an impact." He pledged if there was no response, the community would rally again the following Saturday.
The protest also became a forum for complaints against contentious, and as DNAinfo.com New York's "On the Inside" column discovered, possibly ineffectual NYPD policy of stop and frisks.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg has defended the controversial policy, saying it has helped curb crime, and also said the soaring stop and frisk figures published by DNAinfo.com New York may have reflected poor NYPD record-keeping.
Chevon Messiah, 27, a local resident who organized Saturday's vigil, said he and members of the New Black Panthers would consistently have a presence at the intersection where the shooting happened in the days ahead.
"We're going to be here every day," said Messiah. "We're going to be here till justice is served."
Leaders at the event encouraged protesters to attend the March to End Stop and Frisk in Manhattan on Sunday, June 17. The march begins at 2 p.m. at Fifth Avenue and East 110th Street and heads south on Fifth to East 75th, 76th and 77th streets, and then east to Madison Avenue.