Murder of Brooklyn Muralist Prosecuted as a Hate Crime

by Kevin Schattenkirk

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Friday September 25, 2020

Murder of Brooklyn Muralist Prosecuted as a Hate Crime

James Williams, a 51 year old New York City man, has been charged with a hate crime in the murder of 29 year old muralist Massiah Berkley, New York Daily News reports.

The incident took place in the Far Rockaway neighborhood of Queens, on September 7, while Berkley was sitting on a park bench with Williams. The defendant allegedly called Berkley a "faggot" before knifing him in the chest and in the back of the head. Berkley was rushed by paramedics to St. John's Hospital before passing away.

Williams was arrested nearby, and told police at the precinct he knew Berkley and had many altercations with him in the past. "I pulled out a fishing knife and I [swung] it at Massiah a few times and hit him one time." Williams also said he threw the knife over a fence and into a nearby construction site. What led to this fatal event is unclear. In addition to murder, prosecutors will charge Williams with weapons possession and tampering with evidence. Williams could face 25 year to life in prison if convicted.

Berkley's mother, Kim, said that her son was in Far Rockaway to assist his cousin in taking care of her mother. Berkley also worked with the nonprofit Groundswell, an organization that gathers young, local people to beautify neighborhood with colorful murals that create positive social change. "That's what he do, he help everybody. But nobody was there to help him. My son is lying somewhere in a f---ing morgue right now with a tag on his toe, cold. For what? For what?"

Kevin Schattenkirk is an ethnomusicologist and pop music aficionado.

Comments on Facebook