An Unnecessary Death in New York Police Killing Highlights Flaws of 'Zero Tolerance'
Part 4: 'I Always Told Him the Knife Would Get Him in Trouble'
But what did happen with Kennedy? And what about the knife? "Oh, the knife," says Nyman. "I have a knife, too. I use it to cut up boxes and open packages every day, and Darrius did the same thing. I always told him not to walk around the city with the knife, and that it would get him into trouble one day. But he didn't want to listen to me."
Did Kennedy have psychological problems? Nyman does not hesitate before responding. "He had his demons, sure." According to Nyman, Kennedy found God a few years ago and had constantly studied the Bible ever since. "But most of all he hated the police. It was real hate, because they were always harassing him, throughout his entire life." He hated them because they stopped and searched him -- a black man and a pot smoker -- again and again. "He was a pretty big guy," says Nyman, "and for those police officers he was the picture of a suspect."
Kennedy reaches the last several feet of his path through life on Saturday, Aug. 11, at shortly after 3 p.m. The exact time to the last minute isn't entirely clear. He moves past a Bank of America branch on 38th Street, past an empty Off-Track Betting parlor and past the windows of a Chipotle fast-food restaurant.
He slows down. By now he is looking around nervously, and he must sense that his pursuers have him surrounded. What he probably doesn't see yet is that a squad car is parked across the sidewalk like a barricade, next to the glass entrance of an office building at 501 7th Avenue.
Police spokesman Browne will later say that the officers opened fire after Kennedy had come within "two to three feet" -- less than a meter -- of them. Police Chief Kelly will report: "The officers got out of the car. As a result, Kennedy approached the officers with the knife; they had no place to go." Both men, Kelly and Browne, aren't telling the truth.
The various videos circulating on the Web clearly show that Kennedy is at least 15 to 20 feet away from the officers standing at the squad car when they start shooting. And it isn't as if they had just gotten out of their cars and were taken by surprise by their victim or somehow found themselves in a situation requiring self-defense. In fact, they are standing there with their weapons drawn, waiting for Kennedy, who passes another shop, the Jewelry Patch, before turning around and facing his death.
A Pool of Blood Becomes a Tourist Attraction
Michael Massett, 41, 18 years on the job, shoots three or four times. Peter Rogers, 33, a police officer for the last seven years, pulls the trigger of his Glock nine or 10 times. Thirteen bullets strike Kennedy: six in the chest and abdomen, three in the back, two in the left upper arm and one in each thigh. He is pronounced dead at Bellevue Hospital, at 3:42 p.m.
His story lives on for another two days. On Saturday, the police spend hours searching the crime scene, securing evidence and surveying the site, but after that, no one feels the need to wash away Kennedy's blood.
On Sunday, the dark pool of blood becomes a minor attraction, as tourists from around the world take snapshots of each other at the scene. Local reporters show up to write minor reports on how amusing it is to see visitors from Europe, in particular, surprised and even outraged about the fact that no one is washing away the blood. It's still there on Monday, and more tourists begin showing up with their cameras.
Then a janitor named Pedro Toruno emerges from the doorway of the glass-and-steel structure at 501 7th Avenue, carrying a mop and a bucket. He washes away all traces of the incident.
Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan
- Part 1: Police Killing Highlights Flaws of 'Zero Tolerance'
- Part 2: The Trouble with 'Zero Tolerance'
- Part 3: False Reports of a 'Times Square Ninja'
- Part 4: 'I Always Told Him the Knife Would Get Him in Trouble'