Nicholas Heyward, Jr. (216197)
Credit: Contributed

After more than 20 years of trying to get justice and even a glimmer of hope, the family of a 13-year-old boy fatally shot by police received devastating news this week about their case.

Reports indicate that the Brooklyn district attorney’s office has decided not to prosecute the case involving the 1994 police shooting death of 13-year-old Nicholas Heyward Jr. The decision comes after a yearlong investigation opened back up by the late Brooklyn DA Ken Thompson.

The DA’s office reportedly concluded the probe six weeks before Thompson’s sudden death from cancer last month. Former Brooklyn DA Charles Hynes came to the same conclusion more than 20 years ago.

In 1994, Heyward was playing with friends at Gowanus Houses in the stairwell with a toy weapon. Housing Officer Brian George was patrolling the building and was responding to call of a man with a gun.

George was on the roof when Heyward came through the door, allegedly pointing the toy brown and black double-barreled rifle at the officer. George fired one shot at Heyward, fatally hitting him in the stomach, and then called 911.

Hynes decided that the now-retired officer acted in self-defense. As part of a number of cases he re-examined during his term as DA, Thompson promised during his campaign to reopen the case at the Heyward family’s request.

In a letter to Thompson written earlier this year, Nicholas Heyward Sr. said that his son’s case didn’t receive proper treatment 22 years ago.

“In the past few years, we have seen other police shootings of Black men, women and children. My own health has been challenged reliving what happened to my family every time I hear of another Black life lost to police violence,” the elder Heyward said. “Tamir Rice was only 12 years old when he was killed playing with a toy gun, like my son, out in Cleveland. Akai Gurley was killed for the ‘crime’ of using the stairs in a Brooklyn housing staircase, like my son, in East New York.”

Several witnesses, including friends and witnesses, were reportedly interviewed before coming to the final conclusion. Evidence including the toy gun and Heyward’s clothes had been destroyed.

“Based on the totality of the evidence, we have concluded that the shooting did not rise to the level of a criminal act,” a Brooklyn DA spokeswoman said in a statement. “Officer George reasonably believed that his life was in danger when faced with a realistic-looking gun aimed at him. It is our hope that the Heyward family finds some small measure of solace knowing that there was a thorough and fair reinvestigation led by the late district attorney Ken Thompson.”

A rally was recently held, led by the elder Heyward, in response to the conclusion. He said that he watched Thompson help innocent victims get out of prison and he was counting for the same result because his son was also an innocent victim.

“I was hoping that my son’s case would be the start of them taking a look into these other cases of police murder in Brooklyn that also have been covered up,” he said.