NEW YORK (AP) — Hundreds gathered at a New York City church Saturday for an emotional, but peaceful, funeral for a 16-year-old boy whose death in a police shooting sparked a week of protests and a small riot.
Kimani Gray was shot seven times on March 9 during an encounter with two plainclothes police officers, who said the teen pulled a gun as they approached him on a street in Brooklyn. Police said a .38 caliber revolver was found at the scene.
The teen's funeral, at a Roman Catholic church not far from where he was killed, drew relatives, friends, and many mourners who had no connection to the teen or his family except a shared sadness over his death. Many mourners wore clothing or carried laminated cards bearing Gray's picture.
"He was funny. And he always knew how to put a smile on my face," said Sidonie Smith, a childhood friend. "Anytime somebody was in a bad mood, he always knew how to make them happy."
The emotion of the service was too much for Gray's father, who fled the church as the choir sang "Amazing Grace." Gray's mother sobbed during the memorial.
The NYPD deployed a large security force to the area around the church during the service, but there was no repeat of the disturbances that came in the days after the shooting.
The killing touched off demonstrations by residents who questioned the police account of the shooting and said they were fed up with aggressive law-enforcement actions, including a tactic known as "stop and frisk," where officers routinely detain and question young black men.
Dozens were arrested at one demonstration. At another, a group of youths broke off, marauded through a commercial district and trashed a produce market.
Saturday's funeral took place just as the police department is defending itself against a civil rights lawsuit, claiming that the "stop and frisk" program has resulted in mass harassment of minorities by officers under pressure from commanders to make arrests in high-crime areas.
Police officials and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg have defended the program as an effective way of taking guns off the street.