Shortly before 5 p.m. on Wednesday Feb. 27th, the police SUV parked outside Grace Funeral Chapels in Brooklyn pulled away, just before the wake for Anthony Myrie was set to begin.
“Are they going to McDonald’s?” the funeral director wondered out loud.
A few minutes later, a group of about 20 young men and a few women in matching black jackets and red hats—emblazoned with the acronym G.M.A.C.C.—trooped in, led by a bearded man in a black fur coat, red bandana, sunglasses, and bejeweled leather boots. They would be handling security for the evening.
The group, Gangstas Making Astronomical Community Changes Inc., and its founder Shanduke McPhatter, the man in fur, said they had come to keep an eye on attendees at Myrie’s wake. “If anybody comes through and they’re upset, our work is to calm them down.” And in the wake of Myrie’s death, a lot of people are upset.
The New York State Police are investigating the death. What is known is that Anthony “Trey” Myrie, 24, suffered cardiac arrest on Feb. 11 at Greene Correctional Facility near Albany, N.Y., where he was incarcerated. As the investigation continues, competing narratives of the hours before his death have emerged.
According to the New York Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, “Myrie was involved in a three-on-one fight with other incarcerated individuals.” Guards responded quickly and “issued verbal commands which stopped the fight. No officers used force at any time,” the department said in a statement provided to NYCityLens by spokeswoman Dee Johnson.
Myrie was examined by prison medical staff and “removed to a holding area,” where he began experiencing chest pains, according the statement. He then was “immediately returned to the medical unit,” where he collapsed. He was transferred to Albany Medical Center, “where he was, ultimately, pronounced dead.”
Myrie had arrived at Greene just a month before his death, according to his grandmother, Gloria Parker. He was entering his third year of a seven-year sentence for attempted sale of a controlled substance.
“I was the mother and the grandmother to him. I raised him since he was two years old,” Parker told reporters at Myrie’s wake, adding that “He was very loving, very friendly.”
Another slant on the events leading to Myrie’s death has been spreading online, stirring frustrations in Brooklyn and on social media. More than a thousand posts tagged #JusticeforTrey punctuate the latest turn in a flurry of bad news that has followed New York prisons in recent months, including the power outage at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn that left that federal facility without heat through the coldest day the city has seen in three years, as well as the death of another inmate at Greene: Delmus Tanner died in November 2018 from “strangulation by another,” according to his death certificate. The Department of Corrections did not name a suspect in his killing until Feb. 19th, saying the suspect was another inmate. “Due to ongoing investigations by both the Department and New York State Police, DOCCS has no comment,” the Department’s spokeswoman wrote on March 1st.
Myrie’s fate has drawn increased media attention since rappers Cardi B. and Meek Mill shared an Instagram post by someone whose Instagram handle is @untouchable_dot, which does not describe any kind of fight, but says Myrie was “Stressed Like He Didn’t Wanna Get Off The Phone” during a call with his wife the day he died, adding that a short time later corrections officials took him away to what is called The Box. “’The Box’ is the SHU, the segregated housing unit,” explained McPhatter, the man in the fur coat. “It’s 23 hours a day in isolation.”
The Instagram post goes on to say that Myrie’s wife has received calls from family members of other inmates who believe Myrie “was Seriously Hurt By The C.O.s.” McPhatter said he believed the Instagram post’s version of events based on his own experience at Greene, where he was incarcerated in 1996, and where he says he experienced violence at the hands of corrections officers.
The @untouchable_dot post goes on to say that Myrie’s wife called the prison around 2 p.m. to ask why her husband had been moved to solitary confinement and was told that was not the case. This version of events—all from the single post on Instagram—claims that Department of Corrections officials then called Myrie’s wife approximately two hours later to inform her that he was in critical condition, and then called a second time around 5:30 p.m. to announce his death.
The post has since been deleted from the @untouchable_dot account, and the owner of the account did not respond to requests for comment.
“We don’t know. We’re still lost. We don’t know anything,” Myrie’s aunt, Olivia Francois, told reporters in the lobby of Grace Funeral Chapels.
Family members are waiting on the results of an independent autopsy commissioned by their attorney, David J. Hernandez. He alluded to the Department of Corrections’ sluggishness in releasing the autopsy of the prisoner who died earlier at Greene, Delmus Tanner, as a reason for ordering his own. Hernandez told reporters that he planned to travel upstate in the coming weeks to visit inmates who claimed to have information.
Two days after Myrie’s death, on Feb. 13th, Bronx native Cardi B shared the @untouchable_dot post on her Instagram account and captioned it with her own irate takedown of Greene Correctional Facility. “I remember when I went to visit some one in Green and I couldn’t stop crying cause the C.O. beat they face up so bad boy had a black eye for months !!” The post had received more than 750,000 likes as of this writing.
On Feb. 15th, the acting bureau chief of security for New York City’s Correction Department issued a memo to all staff, made public by the Daily News, about the social media activity. “Due to the unknown circumstances surrounding the death of Anthony ‘Trey’ Myrie…Uniform Members from all departments should be on alert for possible acts of retaliation/violence” the memo says, citing “thousands of social media posts touting ‘Justice for Trey’…One post calls Correction Officers, ‘Paid Executioners’….” The memo goes to advise staff members not to wear their uniforms in public.
In a statement to NYCityLens, a spokesman for Justice League NYC—an organization founded by Harry Belafonte that works to “eliminate the racial inequities in the criminal justice system” according to the organization’s website—called Myrie’s death “a reminder to us all that those in jails and prisons are amongst the most vulnerable members of our society.”
On Feb. 19th, Myrie’s widow posted a message, again on Instagram, urging restraint.
“We don’t know how my husband pass,” she wrote. “There is the truth and a lie. Plz wait for the facts. Autopsy results are not in.”
During the wake, she could be heard sobbing in the chapel.