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Ramarley Graham Funeral Draws Hundreds to Mourn Teen Gunned Down by Police

By Trevor Kapp | February 18, 2012 2:02pm
Ramarley Graham's father, Franclot Graham, bends over to kiss his son at a funeral service for the teen at the Crawford Memorial United Methodist Church in The Bronx on Sat., Feb. 18, 2012.
Ramarley Graham's father, Franclot Graham, bends over to kiss his son at a funeral service for the teen at the Crawford Memorial United Methodist Church in The Bronx on Sat., Feb. 18, 2012.
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DNAinfo/Paul Lomax

BRONX — Hundreds of mourners packed a Bronx church Saturday morning for the funeral service of Ramarley Graham, the Bronx teen gunned down by police inside his home earlier this month.

Family and friends stood at the 18-year-old’s rose-covered casket at the Crawford Memorial United Methodist Church to say a last goodbye to the teen, who was dressed in a white suit and green tie.

His father, Franclot Graham, stroked his son's hair and bent down to kiss his forehead, whispering a few final last words into the young man's ear.

The grieving for Graham — who was unarmed when police shot and killed him in his Wakefield apartment earlier this month — turned to anger Saturday when local leaders discussed the circumstances surrounding his death.

“There is no reason for us to pretend, even in our sorrows, that we're here under a natural act,” said the Rev. Al Sharpton, who received a standing ovation at the service.

“This is an unnatural and inexcusable occasion because this young man was killed in an unjust way,” he added. “The reason we are outraged is if he is not safe in his bathroom, none of us are safe.”

Police were investigating a report of a drug deal when they chased Graham to his East 229th Street apartment on Feb. 2. Officers believed they saw a gun in the teen's waistband and entered the building before breaking through the door of his apartment, where they chased him into the bathroom and shot him in the chest. A single bag of marijuana was the only thing recovered.

Local Councilman Larry Seabrook asked why Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly did not attend the funeral amid accusations of "murder" by the NYPD.

“Now the question should be, ‘Where is your humanity?’” Seabrook said of Bloomberg and Kelly’s absence. “Where is the respect of this city?”

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz said contacting Graham’s mother to speak about her son’s death was the most difficult call he’s ever had to make.

“Something is wrong. There are questions that need to be answered,” Diaz said, asking why officers entered his apartment without a warrant and why police said Graham ran from cops when a surveillance video does not appear to show him running.

"Mr. Mayor, Police Commissioner, District Attorney — you have to answer these questions."

Others described Graham’s death as a example of racial stereotyping by police officers.

“Are you going to arrest everyone and shoot everyone whose pants are sagging?” said Iman Abdul Hafeez Muhammad, minister of Muhammad Mosque No. 7 in Harlem, the New York City headquarters of the Nation of Islam,

''He didn't display a gun. He didn't fire a gun. No gun!” he added. “A black man can't stand on the corner anymore.”

During Graham's eulogy, speaker Kirsten John Foy from Public Advocate Bill de Blasio's office charged police with acting maliciously in shooting the teen.

"You killed one of us. You should have to answer for murder," he said, adding he sees young men and women thrown up against walls regularly by police. "Our community cannot stand by and allow others to crucify us."

Later, Graham’s family remembered him as a handyman who was always there to help out around the house.

“He was our go-to guy. He is our go-to guy,” said his sister, Leona Brown. ''If we needed a light bulb to be changed, that's him. Need a stereo hooked up, that's him. If we needed the garbage taken out, that's him too.”

The teen’s stepmother, Yvette Graham, described him as “kind and loving.”

''Ramarley was like a son to me,” she said. “There was never a dull moment when he was around — lots of laughter and fun.”

After the service, some in the crowd yelled at NYPD community affairs officers stationed across the street from the church, calling them "murderers."

Rosemary Melbourne, 52, held up a sign that read ''Stop terrorizing and traumatizing our kids!''

"The police force sometimes do not think before they act," she said. "We appreciate the police and we want them here, but at the same time we want the same respect they give other communities."