The NYPD is refuting initial reports that a Black teen from Staten Island was a victim of a hate crime.
Last week, 16-year-old Dayshen McKenzie suffered a fatal asthma attack after fleeing a racist mob. According to the New York Daily News, McKenzie and his friends were being chased by a mostly white mob who could be heard shouting racial slurs and epithets at the boys.
The teens sprinted down the block, ducking behind neighbors’ homes while McKenzie hid in a backyard shed. When the frightening ordeal was over, McKenzie collapsed at the scene. He was rushed to a local hospital where he was later pronounced dead, the publication reported.
McKenzie’s friend, Harry Smith, and former NYPD officer Diane Fatigati both witnessed the chase and said they heard heard the predominately white group of guys hurling racist insults at McKenzie’s friends, who are Black.
“They were calling us n—-rs,” Smith told the New York Daily News. “I just heard a lot of racial slurs. They were mixed — some white, some of them were Hispanic.”
Fatigati, who attempted to resuscitate McKenzie after he collapsed, also reported hearing the racial epithets.
“They were chasing him — that’s a crime,” she told the publication last week. “You’re hunting them because they’re black … You’re calling them a n—-r.”
She went on to assert that she informed authorities of the racial angle of the frightening ordeal.
“To me, it’s a hate crime,” Fatigati said.
The NYPD has since investigated the tragic incident but says there’s no evidence the teen’s death was the result of a hate crime, CBS New York reported Friday. In fact, a police detective said there was never any mention of racist remarks in the original witness accounts.
“During the initial interviews, no one reported any racial or biased-related comments,” Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce told the news station.
According to CBS New York, witness Fatigati has since backed away from her initial statements and claims she was “misquoted” in the New York Daily News article. The news station reports that the former police officer recently sat down with radio station WCBS 880 and said she saw “three black kids running down the block and a bunch of white kids running after them.”
“I heard the ‘n’ word, I heard gun, and I heard ‘shoot you,’ ” Fatigati recounted. “In my opinion, it looked racial to me.”
Boyce confirmed that authorities are in the process of re-interviewing witnesses, including Fatigati, CBS New York reports.
“We’re speaking to her in regards [to] how did this get misquoted because you can understand the fervor this caused so that’s what we’re trying to find out,” Boyce said.
McKenzie’s family is still demanding answers into the death of their loved one. According to news station NY1, Rev. Al Sharpton has gotten involved in the matter. Sharpton says his National Action Network in Harlem will call on the federal government to investigate the fatal incident, insinuating that the Staten Island District Attorney’s office isn’t doing a sufficient job.
“Why is it just being dismissed like, ‘Oh, we don’t know if it’s a hate crime, therefore move on’?” Sharpton said. “There are a lot of questions here.”
“We don’t know the criminal records of the kids who was in the chase,” he continued. “How do we know who they are, and what their criminal records are, and what their connections are? We don’t know anything.”
No charges have been filed nor arrests made in connection to the incident, NY1 reports. McKenzie’s official cause of death is still pending.