Dayshen McKaenzie died while running for his life.
The black Staten Island teen, fleeing a mostly white crew shouting racial epithets and waving a gun, collapsed and died last week from a fatal asthma attack.
“To me, it’s murder,” said Diane Fatigati, an ex-NYPD officer and 9/11 responder, who rushed to the aid of the dying McKenzie. “They were chasing him — that’s a crime. You’re hunting them because they’re black . . . You’re calling them a n—-r.”
Fatigati tried desperately to resuscitate the 16-year-old aspiring rapper.
But she couldn’t bring him back after the deadly chase last Friday that escalated from a festering beef between one of McKenzie’s friends and one of the other group over a girl.
“I got a gun!” good Samaritan Fatigati heard one pursuer shout around 4 p.m. as McKenzie and a half-dozen pals sprinted through backyards.
“I’m gonna shoot you, n—-r!” yelled another.
Fatigati said the group chasing McKenzie and his pals consisted of young white males and one Hispanic male, and said two of the cars in the wild pursuit bore Pennsylvania plates. No arrests were made and no charges filed in the week since the incident.
McKenzie’s mom, Tisha Richardson, was stunned to hear the details of her son’s final minutes alive — sprinting behind houses and taking shelter inside a shed as carloads of young men gave chase.
“The sadness turns to anger,” said Richardson, 43. “I want justice for him. Somebody should be held accountable.”
A police source said McKenzie’s pals didn’t mention the racial slur when cops interviewed them after the teen died. Hate crimes investigators are expected to interview the witnesses again after the Daily News inquired about the case.
The boy’s death was reminiscent of the infamous 1986 incident in which a white gang in Howard Beach, Queens, chased Michael Griffith, 23, to his death on the Belt Parkway. The young black man was struck and killed by a car.
McKenzie, a sophomore at Curtis High School, forgot to bring his asthma inhaler when he headed out with six of his friends, according to his mom.
The decision proved lethal when McKenzie and his pals — all black — ran into the group of mostly white youths behind Checkers, a fast food burger joint in Mariners Harbor.
A police source told The News the meeting was prearranged, but officials couldn’t immediately verify that account.
Harry Smith, 19, said one of his friends and one of the members of the other group had a dispute over a girl that dated back two years.
“The guy said, ‘You got a problem?’ And my (friend) said, ‘You got a problem?’ and it went on,” recalled Smith. “They left, and they came back three cars deep. The guy in the first car had a gun.”
Cops confirmed that one of the other teens pulled “what is believed to be a handgun,” setting the fatal chain of events into motion. McKenzie was in the wrong place at the wrong time, and nobody in the other group was targeting him, cops said.
The seven black youths bolted from the parking lot and sprinted two blocks away with the cars in pursuit. Smith heard the racial comments booming from the other group.
“They were calling us n—-rs,” said Smith. “I just heard a lot of racial slurs. They were mixed — some white, some of them were Hispanic. But nobody was black.”
McKenzie — known to his pals as Poppa Jawn — hid inside a shed in the backyard of 32 Spartan Ave. as the chase continued to a big field between the houses. The group of at least seven cornered their prey — and bolted when they heard the police coming, Smith said.
“Then we heard somebody yelling Poppa’s name,” Smith recalled. “Poppa said, ‘It’s mad hot’ — and he just fell. My friend thought he was joking, then he realized he was really down.”
Fatigati insisted she told one of the investigating detectives about the racial angle in the fatal incident, although police said there was no mention of any such tensions during the initial probe.
“Oh, yeah,” she said when asked if she told police about the use of the racial slurs. “To me, it’s a hate crime.”
Smith said investigating cops focused more on the gun waved by the other group than their comments. The officers involved observed “no indication of a bias element” when filing their reports.
His mother recalled McKenzie as relentlessly upbeat and ambitious.
“He was such a good kid,” said Richardson, 43. “He would walk up to me and say, ‘Can I get a hug?’ He was just that kind of kid. Anything he wanted to do, he would do.”
Richardson admitted she was an overprotective mother. Dayshen was the baby of her seven kids, and she rebuffed his efforts to win more freedom.
“I never let him spend a night outside of the house, because I was so scared if he had an asthma attack, they wouldn’t know what to do,” she said. “So I wouldn’t allow him to spend the night out, and it still ended up taking his life.”
Richardson said her son was a comedian, a promoter, a rapper and a basketball player. He released a hip-hop video via YouTube just four days before his death.
“A kid with many talents,” said the mom. “Anything he wanted to do, he would do.”
But he suffered from a heart condition in addition to his asthma. A piece of extra tissue attached his lung with his heart, creating possibly lethal complications during his breathing spells.
Fatigati, 53, said she watched the chase as the black kids ran through the backyard and jumped fences in their effort to escape. The first time she saw McKenzie he was with two friends dragging him out of the shed.
“The kids were throwing water on him,” she recounted. “I came out and said, ‘What’s going on?’ They said, ‘My brother’s dead, my brother’s dead! He’s dying, he’s dying!’”
Fatigati twice managed to revive McKenzie but ultimately could not save his life. When cops arrived, they ordered everyone to put their hands up — and EMS responders arrived within a minute. Emergency personnel rushed him to Richmond University Medical Center, where the teen was pronounced dead.
The official cause of death was pending, said Julie Bolcer, spokeswoman for the city medical examiner.
Just last August, on his 16th birthday, a thrilled McKenzie picked up his driver’s permit. And now, two months before his 17th birthday, his name appears on a death certificate.
“He was scared,” his mom told The News. “He’s 16 years old. If someone has a gun, anyone would run.”