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Queens, N.Y., action demands justice for 19-year-old killed by Nassau County police

On Feb. 25, about 30 people gathered at the intersection of Jamaica Avenue and Parsons Boulevard in Queens, New York, for a rally and vigil to honor the second anniversary of the death of Matthew Felix, a 19-year-old Black man shot and killed by Nassau County Police in 2020.

The event was organized by the Party for Socialism and Liberation and sponsored by Desis Rising Up & Moving (DRUM), Black Freedom Project and DSA Nassau County, among others. Attendees included Matthew’s older sister Samantha Felix and other family members of police violence victims.

In February 2020, Nassau County plainclothes police officers overstepped their jurisdiction and pursued Matthew’s vehicle across county lines in unmarked vehicles. When Matthew eventually pulled over at a busy intersection, police shot at the vehicle over a dozen times, fatally striking him. Police claim that he was a suspect in a carjacking case.

Pedestrians expressed solidarity

The crowd of supporters occupying the intersection drew in curious on-lookers. Pedestrians expressed solidarity, though many were grimly unsurprised at yet another unresolved police killing in the area.

Aaron Ghebrehiwet, a PSL organizer said, “Unfortunately, this is not unique to the Felix family. Too many mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters … across America have been taken away by this racist and corrupt system.”

Samantha Felix pointed toward the criminal behavior of the local police, demanding the prosecution of the officers who killed her brother. “Nassau PD, they came into a Black neighborhood. They did not care,” she recalled. “They shot up his car at a busy intersection. Not one shot, two shots, three shots, four, five, six shots. Do I need to keep going?”

Other family members of victims of police brutality expressed their solidarity with the Felix family. Nicole Henriquez shared her experience of losing her cousin, Christian Hall, to police violence. Just like Felix, Hall was only 19-years old when he was suffering from a mental health crisis and was killed by Pennsylvania State Police in December of 2020. 

“They were children. They were 19-years old, and that is something that is rarely spoken about in the news,” Henriquez remarked. “When it’s a child of color who gets killed, all of a sudden they become men. They don’t look at them as the children they are.”

Felix family still seeking accountability

In June 2021, the Felix family, with support from the PSL, coordinated a meeting with New York State Attorney General Letitia James to demand the release of Matthew’s autopsy report, the names of the officers who killed him and the unedited footage of the fatal encounter. The family also demanded the prosecution of all officers involved in his death to the fullest extent of the law.

Though James released the autopsy report and the names of the officers to the Felix family, she nonetheless decided against prosecuting them, as she claimed their actions did not constitute criminal conduct. 

James’s inaction did not go unnoticed by organizers of the vigil.

“While people like Leticia James say all the things people wanna hear, she has yet to offer any comfort or support to the Felix family,” commented Ghebrehiwet.

Though the June meeting delivered an impotent response from the Attorney General, it did produce some small wins for the Felix family in seeking accountability. For one, the family realized that Nassau County PD lied to them when they told them Matthew died due to injuries from crashing his car while being pursued. The autopsy confirmed he had died from multiple gunshot wounds. 

The Felix family made explicit that they would continue seeking accountability for all officers involved in Matthew’s death.

“Only in America can you kill someone and show up to work the next day,” Samantha lamented.

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