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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Darrius Kennedy: New York City Cops Kill the "Times Square Ninja"

     In October 2008, New York City police officers in the Times Square Section of midtown Manhattan, arrested 47-year-old Darrius H. Kennedy for knocking over garbage cans. Instead of hauling the homeless man to jail, they took him to the Bellevue Hospital Center for psychiatric evaluation. A month later, police encountered Kennedy near the Lincoln Center. As he was being taken into custody for stopping traffic on Broadway, and harassing motorists for handouts, Kennedy waved a screwdriver at the arresting officers. Convicted of resisting arrest, a judge sentenced Kennedy to 40 days in jail.

     Over the next four years, Darrius Kennedy didn't have any more run-ins with the New York City Police that resulted in his arrest. By 2012, some of the street merchants in the Times Square area knew Kennedy as a guy who dressed up like a ninja and did back flips to earn tips from tourists. They referred to him as the "Times Square Ninja." (In the 1970s and 80s, many tourists, because Times Square had become so seedy, stayed out of the neighborhood. Since the mid 1990's the place has been as tourist friendly and safe as a Disneyland. Manhattan itself, including Central Park, is one of the safest urban areas in the country.)

       At three in the afternoon on Saturday, August 11, 2012, two police officers in Times Square approached a black man with long hair on the suspicion he was smoking marijuana. When the officers tried to take Darius Kennedy into custody, he backed-off, cursed at them, and pulled a kitchen knife with a six-inch blade. Police officers, with their guns drawn, followed Kennedy as he darted between cars, and weaved in and out of clusters of terrified tourists. As he avoided arrest, Kennedy waved his knife to keep people at bay. The officers trailed Kennedy south from West 44th Street and Seventh Avenue down to 37th Street. Along the way, in an effort to disarm and arrest him, officers pepper sprayed him six times. As is often the case with subjects who are either on drugs or mentally deranged, Kennedy was not affected by the officer's nonlethal force. Alarmed tourists and other bystanders scattered as the moving standoff proceeded south on Seventh Avenue.

     On 37th Street, police officers maneuvered Kennedy into an entrance of an office building. A patrol car pulled up on the sidewalk to hem him in. When two police officers jumped out of the cruiser and ordered Kennedy to drop his weapon, he came toward them wielding the knife. When the armed subject got within three feet of the officers, one of them fired nine shots, and his partner three. Kennedy collapsed to the pavement. Shot several times in the torso, he was pronounced dead a short time later at the Bellevue Hospital Center. The shooting was witnessed by a crowd of people who had followed the action down Seventh Avenue to the spot where Kennedy was shot. Many of the spectators had video-taped the deadly encounter on their cellphones.

     The two officers involved in the shooting were placed on administrative leave pending an investigation of the incident. Neither officer had previously discharged his weapon in the line of duty.

     While there are individuals and groups with anti-law enforcement agendas who criticize the police every time they kill someone, police involved shootings have to be evaluated on a case by case basis. Given the real possibility that Darrius Kennedy could have injured or killed a civilian, taken a hostage, or knifed a police officer, the cops were not, in my opinion, out of line in using deadly force on this out of control man.

     In 2010, officers with the New York City Police Department shot 24 people, killing 8. The following year, they only shot 16, killing 6. By comparison, the police in Chicago shot 46 people in 2011, killing 10. In Los Angeles that year, officers shot 22, killing 14. New York City police officers receive the best deadly force training in the country, and the department's shooting statistics reflect this schooling.  

Note: In 2011, according to date I collected, police officers in the United States shot 1,146 people, killing 607. 

1 comment:

  1. He had a kitchen knife and he was backed into a corner. Twelve shots. Police are not trained to wound. Another needless death.