Family of 13-year-old fatally shot by Utica police says he never forgot to say ‘I love you’ (2024)

Nyah Mway’s mother, Chee War, remembers about seven years ago when he told her he wanted to name his baby sister himself.

“‘Paw K War,’” Chee War, 39, said, explaining that the name means “blooming flower.” “We didn’t even know how he got that name.”

From then on, Nyah Mway — the 13-year-old boy who was fatally shot by police in Utica, New York, on Friday — was fiercely protective of his sister. He was protective of his whole family, in fact.

He’s being remembered as a doting sibling and son.

“Whenever he comes back from school, he’ll say, ‘I love you,’” Chee War said.

The people of Myanmar do not customarily have surnames, instead taking individual compound names.

Family of 13-year-old fatally shot by Utica police says he never forgot to say ‘I love you’ (1)

Nyah Mway was tackled to the ground and shot after he ran from police, who said he was one of two youths stopped in connection with an armed robbery investigation. Authorities said he appeared to have a weapon in his hand, which turned out to be a replica of a Glock 17 Gen 5 handgun with a detachable magazine.

Utica police has identified Patrick Husnay as the officer who fired his weapon at the teen. Officers Bryce Patterson and Andrew Citriniti were also involved in the incident. All three are on paid administrative leave under department policy, officials said.

Investigations have been launched by the police department and the State attorney general’s Special Investigations Office. In an email, Utica Police Lt. Michael Curley did not comment on the probes but said that through the process, “the facts of the incident will be made available for the public to see.”

“We will continue to be transparent and open with the investigative process to rebuild the trust within our local community,” he said.

Nyah Mway, a refugee who had fled to the U.S. from Myanmar with his family when he was 4, had just finished eighth grade and was looking forward to starting high school in the fall, his family said. His mother said that like any other teenager, he loved spending time playing with his friends. But Nyah Mway, whom she described as “obedient and respectful,” had a particularly close relationship with his family.

After his sister was born, Chee War said, Nyah Mway took on a protector role, making sure she was not out too late, helping her mind her manners and pitching in with homework help.

Thuong Oo, Nyah Mway’s older brother, also said he had a loving relationship with his two older siblings, acting not only as a video game buddy at times but also as a source of wisdom.

“He always had advice for me when I asked him,” Thuong Oo said. “He would talk to me, like, ‘Do you need help? Do you need anything?’ He always talked to me in a calm voice.”

Without Nyah Mway, a soothing force in his life, things feel different, Thuong Oo said, adding that their 16-year-old brother, Maung Zaw Myint, has been “traumatized.”

“I just can’t think right now. Some of the time, people come talk to me,” he said. “I act like I’m all right but I’m not.”

Thuong Oo said the family came to the U.S. looking for a better life. Their ethnic group, the Karens, are among those who are warring with the military rulers of the Southeast Asian country of Myanmar. After having resettled in New York, Nyah Mway had big plans, his family said.

“He always told me that he wanted to keep going to school. He wanted to make my parents proud,” Thuong Oo said through tears. “He wanted to see me and my brother graduate from high school and go to college and have a degree and everything. He wanted to be a doctor when he grew up.”

But the family are now unsure of their safety in the U.S.

“Police are supposed to be protectors,” Thuong Oo said. “If they really did that, then how can we trust the police?”

The family did not go into detail about their thoughts on the investigation. Earl Ward and Julia Kuan, their attorneys, said in a statement that they are seeking accountability from the officers.

“As this family grieves the loss of their 13 year old child, they simply want to know why? Why was Nyah Mway shot and killed when he was held down by officers and posed no threat?” the attorneys said. “No one has answered that question. The family and the community deserve an answer. And not next week, not tomorrow but now.”

Thuong Oo captured his thoughts in a poem he dedicated to his brother.

“Love is love,” he wrote in the opening line. “But a brother’s love will never be gone.”

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Kimmy Yam

Kimmy Yam is a reporter for NBC Asian America.

Family of 13-year-old fatally shot by Utica police says he never forgot to say ‘I love you’ (2024)
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