On March 9, NYPD Officer Jovaniel Cordova and Sgt. Mourad Mourad, both in plainclothes, shot and killed 16-year old Kimani Gray outside his best friend’s birthday party in East Flatbush, Brooklyn. An autopsy showed that the teen, known around the neighborhood as Kiki, was shot seven times in the shoulders, arms and legs with wounds on both his back and front.
Police say Gray was standing with a group of young people and started acting suspiciously when they approached. Then, say police, Gray pulled a gun from his waistband and pointed it at Cordova and Mourad, prompting them to open fire.
Since his death, a conflicting picture of Gray has emerged in media. Police say Gray was an armed and dangerous member of the Bloods with a history of larceny. Those who knew him want Gray remembered as a good student and a good kid, albeit one who lived in a rough neighborhood. Following the shooting, a series of protests and riots have erupted in East Flatbush, of which City Councilman Charles Barron said “Our community is a powder keg. Don’t blame us if there’s an explosion. People are fed up.” A total of 46 demonstrators were arrested during a vigil held for Gray.
While Gray’s family and supporters are demanding legal justice for the boy’s death, others have resorted to calling for street justice on the photo sharing site Instagram. A user under the screen name “safjcrossfit,” whose account has since been removed, posted an old West style “wanted poster” featuring images of Cordova and Mourad, with the caption, ”50z want these pigs heads.” According to the New York Post, 50z is a gang subset.
Though the original “wanted poster” is gone, a search of Instagram reveals hundreds of photos with the tag “50z,” many of them on photos relating to Gray’s killing. In several photos, Gray is pictured displaying gang signs.
In response to the Instagram posting, the NYPD has put Cordova and Mourad on desk duty and given them police radios to take home for safety.
Meanwhile, Gray’s mother, Carol Gray, is calling for an independent investigation into her son’s death, saying he was “slaughtered” by police. She told a room of reporters last Thursday that she doesn’t believe her son had a gun. Mayor Bloomberg, however, said at a separate press conference, ”So far, all indications are that the young man had a gun, and I can promise you that we will conduct a full and fair investigation.” Even if Gray had a gun, his friend Shawn Burgendy says that “he wouldn’t just go and pull a gun on the police,” also telling reporters that Gray was a good kid who was “just around a bunch of bad situations.”