20 Bullets For Hairbrush

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[New York News]

Leaders in the Black community called a press conference today to speak to Brooklyn residents, including those from Gates Avenue, who were outraged by the shooting death of 18-year-old Khiel Coppin by police officers last night.
“A lot of what’s going on is built out of frustration, we’re sick and tired of being sick and tired,” said Anthony Herbert, founder of the Central Black Youth Initiative and one of the organizers of today’s press conference.
Herbert, along with Albert Wiltshire, chief of staff to U.S. Congressman Ed Towns of the 10th District office, and other community leaders, called the press conference to urge for calm and provide a forum for discussing issues the community faces.

 “We’re losing too many brothers and sisters and this has got to stop,” Herbert said. “We organized the press conference to talk about the issues and speak to the problems that are challenging our brothers and sisters in the community. Somebody’s got to step up and say that we have their back.”

According to media reports, Coppin’s mother, whose name has not been released, called a psychiatric unit to request assistance in dealing with her 18-year-old son. However, when the psychiatric workers arrived at the home, Coppin had left. Coppin arrived a few hours later, but by that time, the psychiatric workers had left, according to that account.

Later that night, some media reports indicate that Coppin’s mother dialed 911 to report a domestic dispute, to which police officers responded. The police today released what the department said is audio where Coppin could he heard yelling "I've got a gun," Newsday and the Associated Press reported this evening, adding that the mother had told a police Captain at the scene that the son did not have a weapon. Police officers fired at least 20 rounds at the young man.

Witnesses say Coppin was holding a hairbrush. One media account said Coppin was placed in handcuffs after he was shot. At press time, Coppin’s mother was not available to speak to The Black Star. An attempt to get comment from the police department was not successful before publication deadline.

Comments like: “No Justice! No peace!” “This is a murder!” and “They’re killing us in Iraq, and they’re killing us in our own community,” were rang out loudly from angry residents at the location of the press conference. Residents in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, where the shooting occurred, complain of unfair treatment and constant harassment by the police.

“What’s gonna happen after this? What’s gonna be the end result of this,” asked 23-year-old Kurtis Brown, a life-long resident of the neighborhood.

“It’s gonna be the same thing, this is gonna always happen. I would like the police to get jail time; put the real criminals in jail, but they aren’t doing that though. I’m tired of this man, the people are tired of this,” Brown added, answering his own question.

“They put these cops in our communities, and they don’t understand us, so all they do is shoot first, and ask questions last,” he continued, referring to the police, and adding that they “are the real gangsters; they oppressing us, they ain’t trying to help our communities.”

Wiltshire said he can empathize with the young people and what they are going through, adding that the important thing is to remain calm and give the police and Mayor Michael Bloomberg an opportunity to conduct a thorough investigation.

“When we get the information, then we’ll try to work with the police department to try to prevent these things from happening, but violence is not going to solve anything, and it’s certainly not going to be in the best interest of our community, or the young man’s memory,” Wiltshire said.

While acknowledging the frustration and anger on the streets, he also emphasized, that “we have to work within the system, the community leaders and elected officials, we’ve got to put pressure on the police department and the mayor to be more tolerant of our communities and the things we do in our communities.”

Other community leaders are not willing to be as patient as Wiltshire.

Calvin Hunt, founder of the People’s Committee in Harlem, N.Y., said there have been a number of cases concerning people in the community that have been dealt with inappropriately. He said: “If we don’t get justice, they ain’t gonna get no peace. An 18-year-old boy just got killed – for a brush,” Hunt said. “You do the Sean Bell, the Amado Diallo, the list goes on, and what happens? We rally and then it quiets down, because we are looking to not to step on anybody’s toes.”

To comment or to subscribe to or advertise in New York’s leading Pan African weekly investigative newspaper, or to send us a news tip, please call (212) 481-7745 or send a note to Milton@blackstarnews.com

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