PHOTO CREDIT: Todd Maisel/New York Daily News
When a young, Black boy falls victim to police brutality, many people immediately attempt to justify law enforcement’s rash actions by making disparaging remarks about the victim. This cycle has begun with 16-year-old Kimani Gray who was gunned down by two police officers in the East Flatbush neighborhood of Brooklyn on March 9; but the principal at his high school is setting the record straight.
In a moving letter sent home with students, Matt Willoughby, principal of the Urban School of Design and Construction, paints a clear picture of Gray, remembering his determination, academic achievement and positive energy. He wrote about Gray traveling an hour to get to school each day and how focused he was on succeeding.
In a heart-wrenching passage, Willoughby shares with everyone what Gray was involved in before two officers, Sgt. Mourad Mourad and Officer Jovaniel Cordova, pumped 7 bullets into his slight frame: dramatic dialogue in English, construction of a school in Design — a project that his group will have to complete without him.
The grieving principal remembers Gray as a good person, striving everyday to grow and be his best self — an opportunity that was cruelly snatched away from him.
Read the letter below:
While police claim to have recovered a gun at the scene that they allege Gray pointed at them,witness Tishana King remembers events differently:
“His [Gray’s] hands were down…. Kimani started backing up,” she said. “The cop took out his gun and started firing at Kimani. I couldn’t believe he [the officer] let off his gun. There was no reason. No false move.”
Attempting to shield her grief with her eyes, grief we could still hear in her voice and how tensely she held her body, Gray’s mother Carol Gray, spoke about her son at a press conference last Thursday:
“As a mother… I want to speak of Kimani. Kimani Gray is my son. My baby. My 16-year-old baby… He’s not the public’s angel, but he’s my angel and he’s my baby and he was slaughtered and I want to know why.” She said, “He has a curfew, sometimes he’s late. Whatever time he gets there, I’ll be real happy to seem him” and pointed out that he wasn’t “at a robbery site, not at the murder scene, Kimani was killed in front of his best friend’s house, after leaving a sweet 16 party.”
“Why was Kimani been murdered, and slaughtered? Why was Kimani begging for his life? Why was Kimani saying [those things] if he had a weapon? … He’s my angel, and my baby, and he was slaughtered, and I want to know why. After the first shot, why the second bullet, why the third bullet?
And the 4th, and the 5th, and the 6th, and the 7th. We all want to know why.
See press conference below:
Officers Mourad and Cordova are no strangers to excessive force. According to CBS New York, the city has paid $215,000 to settle three lawsuits brought against them — all by people who said they were illegal stopped and “roughed up.”
The officers are currently on administrative leave pending the completion of an investigation.