New York City police have no solid evidence supporting allegations that a black teenager was chased by a mostly white group that shouted racial slurs before he collapsed and died, a police official said Friday.
The chief of detectives for the New York Police Department, Robert Boyce, told reporters that the death last week of 16-year-old Dayshen McKenzie was gang-related, but did not appear to be a hate crime.
Boyce was responding to a report in the Daily News that quoted former police officer Diane Fatigati, who came to McKenzie’s aide before he died, and one of the teen’s friends saying the victim was chased by attackers using a racial slur and threatening to shoot him. The tabloid quoted Fatigati as saying, “To me, it’s a hate crime.”
Police gave a different account they said came from several other witnesses: McKenzie was part of a mixed-race group that had gathered to watch a gang-related, “pre-planned fight” between two youths. The teen, who had asthma and a heart condition, and others ran away after someone claimed to have a gun.
“It has been determined preliminarily, that McKenzie died as a result of a pre-existing medical condition,” Boyce said. “There is no evidence, nor do we have any witnesses, indicating that it was (an) assault.”
Boyce added that during initial interviews with Fatigati and other witnesses “no one reported any racial- or biased-related comments.” In a follow-up interview after the Daily News story, she gave a different version of what happened, he said.
Police said the friend quoted in the story has refused to cooperate with them.
On Friday, Fatigati claimed she never told the Daily News that the incident was definitely racial. But Daily News Editor-in-Chief Jim Rich defended the front-page story — with the headline “CHASED TO HIS DEATH” — saying the tabloid has Fatigati’s initial account on tape, and it was backed up by McKenzie’s friend.
“It is not our job to determine whether Dayshen’s death was a result of a hate crime. That is the NYPD’s job,” Rich said in a statement. “Our job is to gather information, corroborate facts and then tell the story. This is what we did and we stand by our reporting.”
Source: The AP