SOUTH BEACH — Speaking at the funeral for a teen who collapsed while being chased by a group of white people a witness said was yelling racial slurs at his funeral Thursday, the Rev. Al Sharpton promised to fight for a "thorough" investigation into the boy's death.
About 100 family and friends, many wearing red and white with "R.I.P. Poppa" on their shirts, Were at the funeral of Dayshen McKenzie, 16, Friday. The boy died on May 27 from a reported asthma attack.
Speaking at the service at the A. Azzara Funeral Home in Staten Island, Sharpton said he would seek answers despite the NYPD determining McKenzie's death didn't appear to be a hate crime.
"To say that it was not a hate crime within a day or two without a thorough investigation is something that is insufficient," Sharpton said after the service.
"How the police can dismiss it without a thorough investigation, without talking to all concerned and then having an objective prosecutor determine it, is something that only raises suspicions rather than gives confidence in the community."
Last week, the New York Daily News reported that McKenzie — who rapped under the name "Poppa Jawn" — died while fleeing a mostly white crew, a member of which a witness said was waving a gun and yelling "I'm gonna shoot you n----r."
But the NYPD said that the incident happened during a pre-planned gang fight, and only one person reported the use of a racial slur days after his death.
Sharpton said, regardless if it was pre-planned or gang related, McKenzie shouldn't have died and somebody should be held responsible.
"I think they're raising all kinds of theories that do not answer the basic question," Sharpton said.
"We've had mob rub outs on Staten Island but people go to jail. You don't say 'Oh that's just the mob, let it go.'"
After the service, mourners took selfies with a cardboard cutout of McKenzie and walked with the hearse to stop in front of his apartment a block away, chanting "E.4.P." — everything for Poppa.
Gwen Carr, the mother of Eric Garner, also attended the funeral to pay respects to McKenzie and offer support for his grieving mother.
"This mother’s hurting, and I could really feel the pain," Carr said.
"A lot of people don't know the pain of a grieving mother but I know it and I came to give support."
During the service, Sharpton told McKenzie's friends that they were "worthwhile and worthy" and he'll continue to fight to make sure they get answers about his death.
"You may think it's just another kid on Staten Island, but there are those of us that are going to stand up for another kid on Staten Island," Sharpton said at the service.
"Stand and fight for Poppa saying, 'We want answers together.'"
Sharpton also mentioned that he missed being a VIP at Muhammad Ali's funeral to go the South Beach funeral home, and he thinks Ali would be proud of his decision.
"I know the champ is going to be pleased that I did the right thing," Sharpton said.
"There’ll be enough well known people in Louisville, I wanted to be one that was in Staten Island standing up for this family."