Community Remembers Shantel Davis

(photo by Brittney M. Walker)

Natasha Duncan (photo by Brittney M. Walker)


Community Remembers Shantel Davis
Gentrification may be linked to increased violence
By Brittney M. Walker

(Originally published in Print only – The New York Amsterdam News Vol. 107 No. 26 | June 23- June 29, 2016)

On June 14, 2012 Shantel Davis, 23, was killed in a police involved shooting on 38th and Church in East Flatbush. Four years later, the family is still left with unanswered questions and remains in the dark about what happened that day.

Each year, Davis’ sister Natasha Duncan, reminds the neighborhood and the world about the brutal death of her sister with a candlelight vigil and uproarious demonstrations.

On the anniversary of her death earlier this month, a group of protesters, family members and community supporters gathered at the place Duncan and her sister washed Davis’ blood off the street.

According to NYPD reports, Davis was observed running a series of red lights in a stolen vehicle before having a collision at the intersection of 38th and Church. When plainclothes officers approached the vehicle, there was an alleged struggle before Detective Phil Atkins’ weapon was discharged, striking Davis in the chest. Davis was unarmed and was later pronounced dead at Kings County Hospital.

In an interview, Duncan explained Atkins had been a terror in East Flatbush for years, often violently harassing young Black boys on the streets, treating the neighborhood like a prison camp. Court documents reveal Atkins had been sued at least seven times, with settlements amounting to $130,000 paid out by the city. But he remained on the force.

Duncan said that community members who witnessed the incident claimed the police confiscated both surrounding surveillance footage and cell phones from bystanders who may have recorded the interaction. The family has been petitioning the city and NYPD to reveal what happened for four years with no avail.

Before the vigil, Duncan discovered new media coverage that smeared her sister’s reputation.

(photo by Brittney M. Walker)

(photo by Brittney M. Walker)

“I almost didn’t make it here today because I’m not sure how much more I can do,” Duncan said between sobs. “When Shantel was killed, we didn’t even get to grieve properly because we had to change the perception of what they put out there of her, saying she was a criminal and she deserved to die.”

Duncan explained how her sister was treated in her last moments.

“My sister was shot in the chest. She said she didn’t want to die, but she was told to shut the f*ck up.”

Others who were there to support the family at the vigil included Hawa Bah, the mother of Mohamad Bah who was killed in his home on Sept. 25, 2012, Francelot Graham, the father of Ramarley Graham who was killed in the Bronx Feb. 2, 2012, and other family members of victims who have been killed by police in New York over the years.

“We need change and justice,” Bah said. “We need to hold those people accountable, put them in jail, take their pension, make them suffer. When we suffer, they should suffer also. I want the people who sit in those chairs, those people elected to protect us to know how we feel burying our loved ones. They killed my son in front of my eyes.”

Local organizers are working to unveil the violent patterns of police throughout Black and Brown neighborhoods in New York. Community worker Imani Henry of Equality for Flatbush says gentrification and police brutality are directly linked.

“I think it’s important (to note) that in 2012 there is a correlation of gentrification and stop and frisk violations and summonses being written,” he said, adding that homelessness is up at a record high in New York. Coalition for the Homeless claims that in April this year, there were at least 60,000 homeless people in New York, many of them families. According to the organization’s website, the number one reason for homelessness in the city is lack of affordable housing.

Henry said the influx of police and an increase of tenant harassment since 2012 in Black and Brown neighborhoods has proven violent.

“In 2012, we in Flatbush started to have murders like Kimani Gray, Shantel Davis and before Sandra Bland, there was Kyam Livingston who died in police custody (2013) in Brooklyn and a Flatbush resident. This has been our legacy. We’ve lost three people between 2012 and 2013.”

Further, Equality for Flatbush found that residents in neighborhoods like East Harlem, Chelsea and Flatbush have been receiving a greater number of summonses, more harassment and violence from police since 2012. During a summer sweep, 300 officers flooded the neighborhoods of East Flatbush and East Harlem, which resulted in two high profile beatings of Stephanie Dorceant and Arlondo Brissette, Henry said.

New York Amsterdam News contacted the NYPD for comment about the case and to find out about the whereabouts of Atkins, however the press office had no updates or comments.

(Originally published in Print only – The New York Amsterdam News Vol. 107 No. 26 | June 23- June 29, 2016)

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