Brooklyn Neighborhood on Edge After 3rd Day of Protests for Teen Slain by Police

Thursday, Mar 14, 2013  |  Updated 11:48 AM CDT
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Protesters in East Flatbush, Brooklyn, took to the streets Wednesday as frustration in the community continues to grow over the police shooting of 16-year-old Kimani Gray. Checkey Beckford reports.

Protesters in East Flatbush, Brooklyn, took to the streets Wednesday as frustration in the community continues to grow over the police shooting of 16-year-old Kimani Gray. Checkey Beckford reports.

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A heavy police presence took over a Brooklyn neighborhood where store owners and residents were jittery after raucous protests against a police shooting of a teenage boy swelled in the streets several nights in a row.

Nearly four dozen people were arrested Wednesday night as demonstrators marched for a third consecutive night in East Flatbush to protest the shooting death of 16-year-old Kimani Gray on Saturday.

The unrest is unnerving merchants and neighbors.

"We can't have violence," resident Leroy Brandon said Thursday. "We live in this community."

Protesters clashed with police Wednesday night after a candlelight vigil for Gray just blocks from where he was shot. The anger was palpable as a group of young people heckled police officers in helmets and marched down a street.

The vigil's organizers tried and failed to calm the young people, some of whom later threw bottles at police officers. One officer's face was hit with a brick; he was treated for a laceration, police confirmed.

Forty-six people were arrested on disorderly conduct charges during Wednesday evening's protest, including Gray's sister, police told NBC 4 New York. Police said additional and varying charges are pending for many of those arrested. Specific charges against Gray's sister were not immediately clear.

A spokesman for Gray's parents said they would not speak publicly as long as there was violence, which he said has "clouded their message."

"It's a tough time for the community," said the spokesman, Rev. Gilford Monrose. "But the family and myself do not condone the violence."

The latest protest came after the medical examiner's office ruled that Gray was hit seven times, and had wounds in both the front and back of his body, including his shoulder, rib cage, forearm and legs.

The teen was with a group Saturday night, but left when he saw police in an unmarked car, police said. Authorities said he was acting suspicious and plain clothes officers approached him. According to police, Gray pointed a .38-caliber revolver at them, and they opened fire. He was pronounced dead at a hospital.

A gun was recovered at the scene, according to police.

Gray was black. The officers involved in the shooting were black and Hispanic. They have been placed on administrative duty.

A police officer may use deadly force when the officer has a reasonable fear of serious injury or death. Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said the shooting appeared to be within those guidelines.

But supporters of Gray maintain he wasn't armed.

"I want to see justice," said Jamal Williams, 18, a friend who grew up with Gray in the same East Flatbush neighborhood. "I want to see these cops taken down."

On Monday, at a vigil for the teen, dozens of people threw bottles and damaged some stores. Police released surveillance video of two of the convenience stores, where people are seen throwing fruit and stealing. In one, the cashier cowers in a corner as people loot the shop.

Rickford Burke, president of the New York Caribbean Institute and an organizer of Wednesday's vigil, said he condemned the looting. He said the disorderly response came from a deep feeling of frustration in the community that police officers regularly harass and target young black men.

"The police department has proven to be racially inattentive to black communities and this one is no different," he said.

A second cousin of the victim, Ray Charles, said he was devastated to learn of Gray's death — and was still having trouble accepting the NYPD's official version of events.

"My cousin was scared of guns," said Charles, 35. "I honestly just want justice. They didn't need to shoot him like that." Charles did not protest Wednesday night but said he encouraged people to take to the streets.

"The real issue in Brooklyn is cops have been harassing us for a long time," he said. "It needs to stop."

 Marc Santia contributed to this story

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