Last Tuesday marks 10 years since Shantel Davis was killed by an NYPD detective in East Flatbush. A decade later, officer Philip Atkins remains free after shooting the unarmed 23-year-old. So Davis’ sister Natasha Duncan continues to fight under her name.
“I know with Shantel’s case, I’m not going to get justice,” said Duncan. “But it’s soothing for me to keep uplifting her saying her name, meaning people helping other families. I feel like that’s what keeps me sane. I feel like if I stop, I’m like, not gonna be the same. I don’t feel like I’m doing her justice.”
Duncan’s main giveback is an annual basketball tournament called Hoops 4 Justice, which she co-hosts with the family of Kimani Gray, another young person killed by the NYPD. This year’s event will be on Aug. 6 at Tilden Park in Brooklyn. Duncan also co-founded the nonprofit Sisters of the Movement and is currently working on starting another community organization for youngsters in her neighborhood. All in the name of Shantel Davis. Through such work, Duncan has met numerous families that have also lost loved ones to police violence and they’ve become an incredible support system.
“[After the shooting] we have groups that help or news outlets that post your story and all these elected officials around you—and when those cameras go away, [there’s] nobody,” said Duncan. “But with these families, I can call anybody from a number of neighboring cities [and] states to talk about what I’m going through.”
On June 14, 2012, Davis crashed an allegedly stolen vehicle into a van on the intersection of East 38th Street and Church Avenue after running three red lights, according to police. Atkins and his partner, Daniel Guida approached the car in plainclothes. There was an alleged struggle, and Atkins fired his weapon into Davis’ chest.
Today, Davis would be just 33 years old. According to Duncan, she loved to cook. And was a fantastic aunt who was the first person her nephew reached out to when he got into trouble at school. But the public rarely saw that side of her after the shooting, as her criminal history and arrest record were frequently brought up by the media, with the New York Post going as far as calling her a “witchy woman,” citing an attempted murder charge she was facing.
“It is really hurtful to have to grieve, but then defend her name,” said Duncan.
She says if her sister did something wrong, it should be handled through the criminal justice system, not through the shooting of an unarmed woman. And especially not by a cop like Atkins, who had a reputation in Flatbush for excessive force and was named in multiple federal lawsuits. At the end of the day, Duncan hates how her sister was presented as some sort of mastermind criminal.
“When I say her name, I just want to remember that she was a young woman trying to make it in the world,” said Duncan.
Tandy Lau is a Report for America corps member and writes about public safety for the Amsterdam News. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep him writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift today by visiting: https://tinyurl.com/fcszwj8w