Dayshen McKenzie, a 16-year-old sophomore, left his inhaler at home when he went to meet up with six of his friends on May 27.
One brief moment in time would prove fatal for the Staten Island teen, who family and friends lovingly called, “Poppa Jawn.”
The New York Daily News reports McKenzie was chased by a group of men who shouted, “I’m going to shoot you, n—–!”
Exhausted, Mackenzie collapsed and died of an asthma attack in an open field.
“To me, it’s murder,” said Diane Fatigati, a former NYPD officer and 9/11 responder, who desperately tried resuscitating McKenzie. “They were chasing him — that’s a crime. You’re hunting them because they’re black … You’re calling them a n—-r.”
Fatigati said the group pursuing McKenzie drove two cars with Pennsylvania plates and consisted of mostly White men and one Hispanic male. The Good Samaritan says she informed police about the racial epithets thrown at McKenzie and his friends. In their initial investigation, police claim none of the witnesses reported hearing racial slurs.
Friend Harry Smith, 19, told the Daily News the incident stems from two years ago. Allegedly, a friend of McKenzie’s and a member of the group disputed over a girl.
“They guy said, ‘You got a problem?’ And my (friend) said, ‘You got a problem?’ and it went on,” he said. “They left, and they came back three cars deep. The guy in the first car had a gun.”
Police confirmed that one of the members in the other group pulled out “what was believed to be a handgun,” which set the tragic chain of events into motion.
McKenzie and his group immediately sprinted off, and at one point, he took shelter in a neighbor’s shed while the car pursued them.
No one is more devastated than Tisha Richardson, McKenzie’s mother. “The sadness turns to anger,” said Richardson, 43. “I want justice for him. Somebody should be held accountable.”
Community leaders are outraged and calling for action. Famed civil rights activist Al Sharpton released a statement in the wake of McKenzie’s death. He referenced Michael Griffith, a Black man who died fleeing a White mob near Howard Beach in 1986. Griffith died when he was hit by a car:
“As someone who led the demonstration 30-years ago in Howard Beach, I read with horror what happened to Staten Island teen Dayshen McKenzie and there are striking similarities to what happened in 1986 to Michael Griffith. National Action Network (NAN) has a Staten Island office and will offer whatever support we can to the family of this young man. On Saturday, during NAN’s live action rally and radio broadcast, we will call on the federal government to investigate this incident as a possible hate crime because after the Staten Island District Attorney’s office (under the former prosecutor) showed questionable investigative skills in the Eric Garner case, we cannot in confidence rely on the DA’s office to pursue this matter to the degree the community feels will bring justice to the family of Dayshen McKenzie.”
According to the Daily News, hate crime investigators will interview witnesses again after the paper inquired about the case.