EAST NEW YORK — More than 100 protesters blocked traffic on Atlantic Avenue Wednesday night, where three days earlier an off-duty NYPD officer fatally shot an unarmed Brooklyn man who police say punched the officer in the face during a road-rage fight.
Relatives of the man killed, 37-year-old Delrawn Small, held candles and stood shoulder to shoulder with the mother of Eric Garner and elected officials who called retaliatory violence "inevitable" if the officer who pulled the trigger, Wayne Isaacs, isn't charged.
“If you ignore all of our peaceful efforts for justice, violence is inevitable,” State Assemblyman Charles Barron said to roaring applause.
“We’re not going to keep dying. You can’t keep killing us. We say to Police Commissioner Bratton: Bratton must go,” he added.
Small, who had some kids and his girlfriend in the car with him, and Isaacs, who was driving home from a tour of duty in the 79th Precinct, started feuding with each other as they drove down Atlantic Avenue about midnight, officials said.
The drivers stopped at a red light at Bradford Street with Small on the left lane and Isaacs in the right with a car between them, sources said.
Surveillance footage from nearby shows Small leaving his car and walking over to Isaacs' car and start pummeling the off-duty officer through his open window, sources said. Isaacs then pulled his service weapon and fatally shot Small, police said.
Isaacs was sued in 2014 for beating a man while other officers called the man "n---er." The city later settled with the plaintiff for $20,000.
The Wednesday night vigil for Small came amid heightened tension across the country about police shooting unarmed black men.
On Tuesday, Louisiana police fatally shot unarmed Alton Sterling after tackling him to the ground. Video of the shooting sparked protests in that state and a federal investigation. Then Wednesday night, a Minnesota woman broadcast video after local police gunned down Philando Castile in his car.
The Brooklyn vigil for Small drew about 60 police officers as the protesters flooded the avenue near Bradford Street. There were no arrests but officers broke out plastic handcuffs as protesters began chanting, “NYPD, KKK, how many kids have you killed today?” and “Shut this racist system down.”
Small’s brother, Victor Dempsey, was surrounded by more than 20 family members and friends dressed in white T-shirts emblazoned with the words “Forever Glorious Fubu Rest in Paradise.”“What’s standing by me now is my blood, my family,” Dempsey said. “Who is not standing here is my brother. My brother was the rock but he’s not here no more. I don’t know what y’all thought happened but none of that matters. All that matters to me is that my brother got shot for no reason. I don’t care if they say he punched [the officer]. I don’t care if he stayed in the car. At the end of the day he got shot by a cop for no reason in front of his family in our own neighborhood. I don’t understand it. If we don’t get justice I don’t know what the system is about."
The Dempsey family's lawyer, Roger Wareham, implored both media and the public to disregard Small’s criminal background and focus on the violent nature of the July 4 road-rage incident. Small had been arrested 19 times, records show, and served three sentences behind bars for separate felony convictions for attempted robbery, drug dealing and assault.
“Keep your eye on that question: deadly force on an unarmed civilian, no matter what they said the civilian was doing, is not justified,” Wareham said.
"Why has this officer not been arrested? He killed somebody that was unarmed. Anyone else in that situation would’ve been arrested,” the lawyer added.
Gwenn Carr, the mother of Eric Garner, who was choked to death by an NYPD officer on Staten Island in 2014, demanded justice for her son and Small.
“I know what that family is feeling,” Carr said. “We have to stand in solidarity for all of them because it’s not right for them to keep killing our children. When are they going to stop?”