Neighbors Lash Out at NYPD After Unarmed Ramarley Graham is Killed by a Cop
By Sonja Sharp, Ben Fractenberg, Trevor Kapp and Julie Shapiro
BRONX — One day after police shot and killed unarmed Bronx teen Ramarley Graham in his home, devastated friends and neighbors slammed the NYPD for being overly aggressive.
Police pursued Graham, 18, into his family's home at 749 E. 229th St. in the Wakefield section of the Bronx Thursday afternoon and shot him in the chest in his bathroom, as his terrified grandmother watched from just a few feet away and with his 6-year-old brother nearby.
"They were wrong to shoot him in his house," said Carlene Dennis Dunkley, a neighbor whose children were friends with Graham. "That could be my son."
Graham was killed after cops who were investigating a drug dealing report believed they spotted a gun in Graham's waistband. They followed him to his home, stormed the apartment and shot him in the bathroom, police and neighbors said. Cops found no weapon, but just one bag of marijuana.
As Graham's family, friends and neighbors mourned by a small shrine outside the teen's house Friday morning, some lashed out against the police officers who guarded the crime scene.
"You're wicked, you're murderers!" screamed Darnette Richards, 40, a neighbor who witnessed the shooting.
The NYPD is investigating the shooting, and has stripped the shooting officer and supervising sergeant of their guns and placed them on administrative duty, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly told reporters Friday.
"We need to continue to get the facts here," Kelly said. "Obviously at this juncture we see an unarmed person being shot. That always concerns us.
"Obviously a mother losing her son, a grandmother losing her grandson right in front of her, it's a terrible heart-wrenching traumatic experience, we understand that," Kelly continued. "We certainly sympathize with them."
Mayor Michael Bloomberg told reporters Friday that the shooting would be investigated.
''We obviously have some real concerns and until we know what really happened, there's not a lot else I can say," Bloomberg said. "Normal procedures are being followed.''
Outside of the Graham family's home, Jeffrey Emdin, their lawyer, vowed to fight for justice for Ramarley.
"When people are not safe in their own home," Emdin said late Friday afternoon with Graham's parents and grandmother at his side, "when lives mean nothing, when police don’t think to get a search warrant, when the police are above the law — nobody is safe."
Kelly said officers first saw Graham with two other men Thursday afternoon at a bodega at White Plains Road and East 228th Street, where officers were investigating reports of drug dealing, Kelly said.
The officers reported over their radio that Graham appeared to be armed, based on the way he was carrying himself, and then they followed the three men north on White Plains Road to East 229th Street, Kelly said.
While officers watched, two of the men went into 728 E. 229th St. and then motioned to Graham, who was across the street, to join them, Kelly said.
When Graham left the building, the NYPD team reported over their radio that they saw the butt of a gun in Graham's waistband, Kelly said.
Officers yelled at Graham, "Police, stop, don't move!" but he continued walking into his own home across the street, at 749 E. 229th St., Kelly said.
The officers pursued Graham, but by the time they got up to his door, it had closed and locked behind him. The officers tried to kick down the door, and when they couldn't, they went around to the back and got a neighbor to let them in.
Guns drawn, the officers then went up the stairs to Graham's family's second-floor apartment. When no one answered the door, the officers broke it down and two entered the apartment, where they saw Graham run from the hallway into the bathroom, Kelly said.
One officer followed Graham and yelled, "Show me your hands! Show me your hands!" and then, "Gun! Gun!" before firing a shot into Graham's chest, Kelly said.
Graham was transported to Montefiore Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
The shooter was a 30-year-old officer who joined the NYPD in 2008, Kelly said.
Paulet Minzi, 54, who lives on the third floor and is the building's landlord, was in her apartment when she heard the shot.
"I heard 'Boom,' but I didn't know it was a gunshot," Minzi said. "I heard the grandmother in her apartment crying, 'Why are you hitting me? Why are you hitting me?'"
Minzi said she also heard Graham's 6-year-old brother, who was in the apartment at the time, saying "They shot my brother, they shot my brother."
Minzi said she raced down to Graham's apartment and police pointed a gun at her, then searched her apartment.
Victoria, 49, a family friend who did not give her last name, described Graham as upbeat young man.
"It's very hard — everybody's crying," she said. "He was a very lovely kid. Never a sad person."
Felicia Barnes, Graham's middle school adviser at Young Scholars Academy, said the teen was polite and thoughtful, and though he didn't always make straight A's, he worked hard and passed the state's standardized tests.
"He had an old soul," Barnes said outside her former student's home. "He was the most protective young man…. He did not deserve this, no matter what the circumstances."
Barnes recalled that in 2009, Graham rallied his English class at Young Scholars to throw a birthday party for their teacher, Chrystal Blake. Graham organized the party and brought a pink-frosted cake and balloons, Barnes said.
Thursday's shooting marked the third time in a week that the NYPD had shot and killed a suspect, and came in the wake of a young police officer being shot in the head in Bushwick Jan. 31.
On Jan. 26, an off-duty NYPD lieutenant shot and killed an armed 22-year-old man who was allegedly on a carjacking-and-robbery spree.
Then on Jan. 29, an off-duty detective in Bushwick shot and killed a 17-year-old boy who allegedly tried to rob him by attacking him with a cane.
Kelly dismissed suggestions that any of the shootings were connected.
"Sometimes you'll see a cluster of them," Kelly said. "There's no connectivity."