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NYPD Disputes Report That Staten Island Teen's Death Was Hate Crime

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) -- The NYPD is disputing a report that a black teenager was chased by a mostly white group that shouted racial slurs before he collapsed and died.

Police officials said Friday that there was no evidence that 16-year-old Dayshen McKenzie was the victim of a hate crime.

"During the initial interviews, no one reported any racial or biased-related comments," Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce said.

The Daily News had quoted a woman and a man who described a chase involving mostly white attackers using racial slurs. Police said the woman, former police officer Diane Fatigati, had since claimed she was misquoted and the man wouldn't speak to investigators.

Fatigati had earlier also told WCBS 880's Marla Diamond that she saw "three black kids running down the block and a bunch of white kids running after them."

"I heard the 'N' word, I heard gun, and I heard 'shoot you,'" Fatigati said. "In my opinion, it looked racial to me."

Boyce said police are reinterviewing witnesses, including Fatigati.

"We're speaking to her in regards [to] how did this get misquoted because you can understand the fervor this caused so that's what we're trying to find out," Boyce said.

Police said other witnesses said McKenzie was part of a mixed-race group that had gathered to watch a gang-related dispute. They said he and others ran away after someone claimed to have a gun.

McKenzie, who had asthma and a heart condition, died last week of an asthma attack after the chase, The Daily News reported. The official cause of death is pending.

A friend told the paper it all started when their group and another group got into a dispute over a girl. He claimed the other group left, came back in three cars, and started chasing them. He said the suspects used "a lot of racial slurs" and one displayed a gun.

The group dispersed, with McKenzie running a quarter-mile away to Spartan Avenue, where he collapsed, Diamond reported.

Fatigati found the unconscious teen lying in her neighbor's backyard and tried unsuccessfully to revive him.

"I revived him once with the help of one of the teens and then he went out again, I revived him again," Fatigati told 1010 WINS. "Police came in, told us to put our hands up, we did and they took over."

EMS responded and rushed McKenzie to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

"I pray for this kid every night," Fatigati said, adding the boy's mother reached out to her and invited her to McKenzie's funeral. "She wants to give me a hug and I'm more than happy to oblige her."

McKenzie's mother, Tisha Richardson, said she wants justice and that someone should be held accountable.

Staten Island District Attorney Michael McMahon issued a statement saying, "We offer our deepest condolences to the family and friends of Dayshen McKenzie during their time of grief. This office takes any allegations of a hate crime seriously. At this time, we have spoken with members of the NYPD who are investigating and we will continue to speak with them as this matter continues to be investigated."

The Rev. Al Sharpton released a statement saying his National Action Network will call on the federal government to investigate the incident as a possible hate crime.

Mayor Bill de Blasio told WNYC's "The Brian Lehrer Show" that more facts are needed.

"We cannot rush to judgment on this. We need to know more," de Blasio said Friday morning. "We just don't know enough yet to determine what happened here. I think it is important that people take a breath while the PD has a chance to really investigate and get right to the facts of this case."

Although bias crime detectives are assisting, the NYPD said comparing this case to a deadly 1986 racial attack in Howard Beach is "inaccurate and irresponsible," 1010 WINS' Al Jones reported. In that incident, 23-year-old Michael Griffith was chased onto the Belt Parkway by a group of white teens. He was accidentally struck by a car and killed.

(TM and © Copyright 2016 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2016 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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