An investigation has so far failed to find any evidence that a 16-year-old boy who collapsed and died on Staten Island last month was the victim of a bias attack, NYPD officials said Friday.
According to officials, Dayshen McKenzie was among a group of bystanders who gathered May 27 to watch two groups of youths in a “preplanned” fight — possibly over a girl — when someone said there was a gun, a remark that caused the groups of teens to start running.
A news report Friday quoted one of youths in a group of black teens as saying they were chased by white and Hispanic youths using racial epithets. One witness, former NYPD officer Diane Fatigati, was quoted as telling police “to me, it’s a hate crime.”
But during a news conference to address the incident, and the suggestion in the media that the case was similar to the fatal, racially charged 1986 Howard Beach attack of a young black man by a gang of whites, police said they found no evidence of bias.
“This comparison is inaccurate and irresponsible actually,” said NYPD Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce.
“At least a half dozen witnesses have been interviewed and during the initial interviews no one reported any racial or bias related comments,” Boyce said. “We are not considering it to be a hate crime at this point.”
Boyce also indicated that Fatigati on Friday had changed her story, and she said she had been misquoted in earlier media accounts. In remarks to a television reporter Friday, Fatigati said she never said it was racial.
“I just told them what I saw and what I thought at that time I saw them, I thought it was racial, a bunch of white kids chasing a bunch of black kids and that is what it looks like to me,” said Fatigati, who couldn’t be reached for comment late Friday.
Boyce said the NYPD bias unit was assisting in the investigation. He said Fatigati was seen on a video giving aide to McKenzie but that credibility was an issue in the continuing investigation. She has actually given three statements to police, according to Boyce.
“There is no reason to believe there a hateful aspect [to the incident],” NYPD spokesman Stephen Davis told Newsday later.
According to Boyce, the preliminary investigation showed that McKenzie died as a result of a “pre-existing medical condition,” which he didn’t specify. A spokeswoman for the New York City medical examiner said autopsy results for McKenzie were pending as of late Friday.
McKenzie’s mother, Tisha Richardson, couldn’t be reached for comment on Friday.