Family of Ramarley Graham Demands Federal Civil Rights Investigation
LOWER MANHATTAN — The family of Ramarley Graham, the unarmed Bronx teen fatally shot in his own home by NYPD Officer Richard Haste, demanded Wednesday that the Department of Justice formally investigate the teen's death.
After Haste's manslaughter indictment was thrown out due to improper jury instructions from the Bronx District Attorney's office, a second grand jury declined to indict Haste in August 2013.
The next day the Manhattan federal prosecutor Preet Bharara said his office would seek to "determine whether there were any violations of the federal criminal civil rights laws."
But Constance Malcolm, Graham's mother, said there has been "nothing but silence" since that announcement.
"We want justice," said Malcolm after a press conference outside the federal courthouse in Lower Manhattan. "We will not stop until they look at what happened to my son."
On Feb. 2, 2012, officers from a special narcotics unit chased Graham, 18, from White Plains Road and East 228th Street to his home at 749 E. 229th St. in Wakefield because NYPD officers investigating a drug deal believed Graham had a gun in his waistband.
Officers pursued Graham into his home and Haste fatally shot the teen in the bathroom. No weapon was found. Haste's attorneys said he was responding to reports from his fellow officers that Graham had a gun.
That's one of the reasons Malcolm said the federal government should be involved in this case.
"It just wasn't Officer Richard Haste," she said. "There were supervisors and others in the police department that caused my son to be murdered in his own house."
State Sen. Ruth Hassell-Thompson agreed.
"The whole police department conspired against this family," said Hassell-Thompson.
Jim Margolin, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office, said the office does not announce details of its investigations.
"The status remains the same. We are reviewing the file," Margolin said.
Royce Russell, an attorney for the Graham family who is also representing them in their wrongful death suit against the NYPD and the city, said that answer is not good enough.
"The wheels of justice spin slowly, but they have to move," Russell said.
The U.S. Attorney has inquired about the status of the civil case, but Russell said that Graham's family does not want the office to wait until that suit is resolved to proceed.
"Justice rides higher than any economic compensation this family would receive," he said. "It's the reverse. We want this investigation to be the priority."
That federal civil suit was cleared to proceed in January and all parties will return to court in July.
In the meantime, Assemblyman Karim Camara, chair of Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic, and Asian Legislative Caucus, said the group sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder last month asking that the Department of Justice launch a full investigation into whether Graham's civil rights were violated and to determine whether a federal grand jury should be convened. They also want officials to meet with Graham's family.
"We believe the civil rights of Ramarley Graham, his family and others in the house may have been violated," Camara said.
Another family at the home where Graham lived has also filed a federal civil suit against the NYPD for entering the building at gunpoint.
Malcolm said although it's been two years since her son was killed, it doesn't get any easier. April 12 would have been Graham's 21st birthday.
"My day was spent at the cemetery. I have three kids and one of them is missing," said Malcolm as she teared up outside the federal courthouse. "He's not here and he should have been here."