Over 1,000 people attended a wake for 16-year-old Kimani Gray over a period of six hours on Friday evening in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Flatlands, just shy of two weeks after the teenager was fatally shot by two NYPD officers. Attendees included City Council members Jumaane Williams, who represents Kimani's district, and Charles Barron as well as City Comptroller and mayoral candidate John Liu. They joined family members, friends, classmates, and those who didn't know "Kiki," but wanted to show their support.



Kimani was hit by seven bullets, three of them in the back, by two plainclothes NYPD officers on March 9th in East Flatbush. The circumstances of his death remain unclear, as the police department's version of events differs greatly from an eyewitness's account. Community members and activists from throughout New York City have held several vigils since the shooting, some of which have turned chaotic, including the trashing of a Rite Aid on one night, and another night that resulted in 46 arrests. 



The NYPD claims the two officers repeatedly told Kimani to freeze, after which he pointed a gun at them. They then fired 11 shots, seven of which hit the teenager. An eyewitness told the New York Daily News, however, that Kimani hadn't pointed a gun at the officers, and later told the Village Voice that one of the police officers stood over Kimani and shot him when he was on the ground.

The media was not allowed inside Caribe Funeral Parlor, where the wake was held, and photographs were prohibited inside the building. But several mourners described Kimani, whose family decided to have an open casket, as looking "peaceful." (The Daily News reports that his mother, Carol Gray, was so overcome at the wake that she tried to rush the casket.)

"He looked peaceful, but not ready to go," said Will, a fitness trainer who had been inside for the wake. He described the scene as thick with emotion as a montage of home movies of Kimani growing up played on a screen. He also said that he and other members of the community were going to continue to plan events to honor Kimani's memory. "We're not gonna stop until justice prevails."

"He was a sweet little boy whose life was taken too soon," said Lestanie Smith, who knows the Gray family, including Kimani and his mother Carol. She repeatedly referred to Carol Gray, whose oldest son was killed in a car accident two years ago, as a "strong person."

Many of the mourners expressed doubt at the NYPD's telling of the shooting, including some who don't believe Kimani had a gun at all. "He didn't have no gun," said Mark King, who lives on Kimani's block. "The cops planted a gun on him."

Another consistent theme among those present was a skepticism of the media, who many believe have painted Kimani in an unfair light. "They're bringing up irrelevant topics," said a woman who identified herself as Kimani's cousin, but wouldn't give her name, likely referring to police allegations of Kimani's criminal record and possible gang affiliation. "We're focusing on the fact that he's gone."

"The media is painting it to where he's an evil guy," said Dapney Madeus, who knew of Kimani through friends of friends. A young woman who attended elementary school with Kimani wouldn't give her name, but said simply, "It's sad he died so young." Many of the teenagers there wouldn't speak to the media at all.

Around 4:30 p.m., half an hour after the wake began, two young women who appeared to be teenagers emerged from the funeral home in tears, a scene that would repeat often throughout the night. When asked by a fellow mourner if they had seen the body, one quietly responded, "Yeah," before burying her face in her hands and escaping down the block with her friend.  

The scene outside was occasionally tense, as those who couldn't get in expressed anger after being told by funeral employees that the space had reached its capacity. Over a period of an hour and a half shouting matches and the odd shoving match broke out as mourners crowded the door attempting to get inside. Several attendees pleaded for calm, with one man shouting, "Look at all these cameras here, this is exactly how they want us to act." Another exasperated older gentleman said quietly, "This is nonsense."

A handful of attendees sported red bandanas, one of which someone tied to a police barricade, possibly giving support to police allegations that Kimani was a Blood, though a man claiming to be his uncle said Kimani's "clique" was nothing serious. And as a recent This American Life shows about Harper High School in Chicago have pointed out, being "in a gang" sometimes means little more than having friends in the neighborhood.

Early in the evening, about a dozen members of the Bed-Stuy Volunteer Ambulance Corps stood in what John Warwick, an administrative chief with the BSVAC, called an "honor guard for the family." He said their organization has trained people to become emergency medical technicians for 15 years, and that they attended the wake at the request of the Gray family.

Across the street, a graffiti-painted banner hung from a chain-link fence. Nunya, the artist who made the banner, didn't know Kimani but described the artwork, which he encouraged people to sign, as "just a job for the community." Nunya wore a hoodie with Trayvon Martin on it. Nunya's friend, Atif Adeem, didn't know Kimani either but wanted to pay his respects regardless. "I have a son. Brand new son. Could've been him," Adeem said, echoing the fears of many of the mourners.

The funeral will take place Saturday morning, two weeks to the day after Kimani was shot and killed.

"It's a shame he didn't get to turn 18," said Devin Adkins, who, like dozens in attendance, wore a shirt with Kimani's face on it. Adkins knew Kimani, and described the effect the shooting had on the community by saying, "It brought us together. But it made us furious."

John Knefel filed this report for Gothamist. Follow him on Twitter.