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Why people are outraged over the shooting of 16-year-old Kimani Gray
For three nights in a row, protests have broken out in New York City against the police
 
Police arrest a demonstrator during a march after a vigil held for Kimani Gray in Brooklyn, N.Y., on March 13.
Police arrest a demonstrator during a march after a vigil held for Kimani Gray in Brooklyn, N.Y., on March 13. AP Photo/John Minchillo

On Wednesday night, 46 people were arrested in East Flatbush, in Brooklyn, N.Y., during protests over the shooting death of 16-year-old Kimani Gray. In case you haven't been following the story, there are two competing narratives at the heart of the controversy.

In one, plainclothes officers stop Gray on Saturday night, and react after he pulls a .38-caliber gun on them. Paul J. Browne, chief spokesman for the New York Police Department, gave this account to the Village Voice:

After the anti-crime sergeant and police officer told the suspect to show his hands, which was heard by witnesses, Gray produced a revolver and pointed it at the officers, who fired a total of 11 rounds, striking Gray several times. [Village Voice]

In the other, Gray is unarmed. A woman named Tishana King told the New York Daily News that she had a "bird's-eye view" of the incident, and that she was "certain he didn’t have anything in his hands." Several witnesses told the Village Voice that Gray "begged not to be killed."

According to The New York Times, an autopsy showed that he was hit by seven bullets, including three in the back, although it "did not establish the order in which the bullets struck Mr. Gray, or determine the path of the bullets, which might make clearer if Mr. Gray had his back to the officers when he was shot, or if he had twisted away after being struck from the front."

While this isn't the first time the NYPD has been embroiled in a controversial shooting, the response has been striking. Three straight nights of protests, including a chaotic gathering on Wednesday that reportedly consisted of hundreds of people. Many of the Brooklyn residents who talked to The New York Times pointed to growing frustration with the NYPD:

The seemingly constant presence of the police in the lives of many youths — both on the street and, increasingly, monitoring conversations on social media — has left many feeling suffocated, said Shanduke McPhatter, 35, an ex-gang member who works with young men in the neighborhood. "I understand the state of mind that these youths have," he said. "The problem is there is no relationship with the police." [New York Times]

A major part of that frustration stems from the NYPD's stop-and-frisk policy, which affected 533,042 people in 2012. NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly defended his department's policy in a tense exchange with New York City councilman Jumaane D. Williams, who represents the district Gray was shot in. "Well, let me say this: New York is by far the safest big city in America," Kelly said. "What we are doing here are tactics and strategies that are working."

BET's Jonathan Hicks, however, sees a clear link between the stop-and-frisk policy and the protests over Gray's death:

Under that policy, hundreds of thousands of young New Yorkers — overwhelmingly black and Latino — are stopped every year on the streets of New York City. Most often, they are detained by officers who use the coarsest of language as they rifle through the clothes of those whom they stop, offering not a word of explanation. In nearly nine of 10 cases, the practice leads to no discovery of wrongdoing and no charges being filed. [BET]

The issue is expected to come to a head on Monday, when a lawsuit against the NYPD by alleged victims of stop-and-frisk lands in federal court. In the meantime, according to NBC 4 News, Gray's mother has called for "justice for two police officers to be off the street before they hurt another young kid." The officers have currently been placed on administrative duty. 

 
Keith Wagstaff is a staff writer at TheWeek.com covering politics and current events. He has previously written for such publications as TIME, Details, VICE, and the Village Voice.

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