Ditmas Park & Flatbush

Crime & Mayhem

'There Was No Fight,' Family of Man Shot by Police Say

August 6, 2017 9:18am | Updated August 7, 2017 8:37am
Vibert Jeune, the father of Dwayne Jeune, sings a spiritual at a vigil for his son, who was shot by police on July 31.
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DNAinfo/Noah Hurowitz

EAST FLATBUSH — The family of Dwayne Jeune, the man fatally shot by police inside his apartment last week, disputed the NYPD's version of the incident, saying there was no struggle before officers opened fire.

Police Commissioner James O'Neill said Thursday that the department was reviewing the shooting, but that it appears to have been a justified use of force because Jeune charged officers with a knife.

But speaking at a candlelight vigil outside Jeune's apartment building Saturday evening, his cousin Charlyn Thomas said Jeune was the victim of an "overzealous" officer.

"We are demanding an investigation into this criminally negligent homicide,"  said Thomas, 32. "They were not in imminent danger. There was no struggle, there was no tussle, there was no fight."

"This grave injustice will not be tolerated, and we will not rest until justice is served," she added.

Family members did not elaborate on Thomas's statement and did not answer questions from reporters, but the assertion echoed a statement from Jeune's father Vibert Jeune, who on Tuesday accused police of telling "lies, lies, lies."

It was unclear if Thomas or the father were in the apartment at the time of the shooting.

READ MORE: Pol Demands To Know Why Mentally Ill 'Keep Ending Up Dead' On NYPD's Watch

Councilman Jumaane Williams, who on Tuesday demanded that a task force be set up to develop a better protocol for emergency services responding to 911 calls about emotionally disturbed people, said the shooting has left the community wondering who to turn to if a family member or neighbor suffering from mental illness.

"Right now, I cannot in good conscience recommend that people call 911 when they have an emotionally disturbed person,” Williams told mourners at the vigil Saturday.

Jeune, 32, died July 31 after his mother called 911 about him acting erratically, telling the dispatcher he was nonviolent and unarmed, officials said.

But when his mother let the four uniformed officers from the 67th Precinct into their apartment inside 1370 New York Ave. at Foster Avenue, police said Jeune charged the officers with a large bread knife.

One officer tried to subdue Jeune with a taser, but failed to bring him down despite two darts hitting their mark, police said.

Jeune knocked down one of the officers and was standing over him with the silver handled knife in hand when Officer Miguel Gonzalez then fired five times, fatally striking Jeune in the chest, according to the NYPD.

At least one stray round went into a next door apartment, according to police officials and neighbors.

Gonzales had been involved in an earlier incident in which he shot and wounded Devonte Pressley, 23, who suffers from bipolar disorder and is accused of charging officers with a knife.

But despite previously shooting an emotionally disturbed man, Gonzalez, who the police commissioner said appears to have been justified in the shootings of both Pressley and Jeune, was the only one of the four officers responding to Jeune's apartment who had not undergone crisis intervention training.

At the vigil Saturday, neighbors and family members recalled him as a devoted son, who often helped his mother with groceries and could sometimes be found dancing in front of a mirror in the hallway outside his apartment, but who otherwise mostly kept to himself.

“Dwayne was a soft-spoken, mild-mannered person who never bothered anyone,” Thomas said of her cousin. “He was not some crazed, deranged madman.”

Following a prayer with local clergy, and a round of singing of spirituals led by Vibert Jeune, neighbors spoke of their memories of Jeune, and family members of others killed by police stepped forward to voice their support.

“ I really do hope and pray for justice,” said Victoria Davis, 34, whose brother Delrawn Small was fatally shot by Wayne Isaacs, an off-duty officer, in what prosecutors have described as a road-rage incident. “This should not have happened.”