The family of a knife-wielding man shot and killed by police near Times Square over the weekend said they thought police should have handled the incident differently, though the NYPD maintains it was justified in the shooting.
"I think they could have gave him a warning shot, probably a shot in the leg or the arm," said Kathy Johnson, who told reporters Sunday that she was Darrius Kennedy's first cousin. "I know they've got to protect the people, but in the same token, you took somebody's life."
Police say they observed Kennedy, 51, smoking marijuana on 44th Street and Seventh Avenue Saturday afternoon and that he became agitated when officers approached him. Officers were talking to Kennedy when he pulled out an 11-inch knife and raised it over his head, police said.
Officers ordered him to drop the weapon, but he refused, police said.
As Kennedy backed down Seventh Avenue, police pepper-sprayed him six times to try and disarm him, but he continued to threaten officers with the knife, officials said. Police said that as Kennedy neared the corner of 37th Street, he lunged at officers with the knife and they shot him. Two officers fired a total of 12 shots, striking Kennedy in the chest, groin, left arm and left calf.
No officers or bystanders were injured in the incident.
Police say Kennedy has 10 prior arrests, one of which resulted in him being hospitalized for a psych evaluation in October 2008, after police took him into custody for knocking garbage cans over in Times Square. In November of that year, Kennedy was arrested for allegedly threatening motorists and cops with a screwdriver on Broadway and West 66th Street, police said.
Johnson said she had last seen Kennedy in June at her mother's birthday party and that he seemed "fine."
Kennedy, she said, was a family member she had grown up with, and though they had gone their separate ways over the years, she still felt warmly towards him.
"He was a good guy," Johnson said of her cousin. "It's a hard time for us right now."
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