THE BRONX — The city cop facing manslaughter charges for gunning down unarmed teen Ramarley Graham in the bathroom of his Wakefield home was cheered on by a contingent of cops as he left the courthouse even as the father of the slain boy was reduced to tears during the hearing.
The bizarre scene played out at the Bronx Hall of Justice Wednesday morning after Officer Richard Haste, 31, pleaded not guilty to two counts of manslaughter for shooting Graham once in the chest in February after Haste's narcotics unit stormed the teen's home home looking for guns and drugs. Only a small bag of marijuana was recovered.
The shooting sparked outrage in the community, including weekly protests outside the 47th Precinct demanding that Haste be indicted, which he was on Monday. Outside the courthouse Wednesday, two pens were set up to corral roughly 50 off-duty cops who showed up to support Haste and nearly 100 people backing Graham.
As Haste made his way out if the courtroom, protesters began chanting, "NYPD, KKK. How many kids have you killed today?'' while cops clapped and cheered to support Haste.
"They can't keep killing our kids," Constance Malcolm, Graham's mother said after the hearing. "Something has to come out of this. Help me get justice for my son.''
Graham's father, Franclot Graham, began to cry and wail when prosecutors described the incident during the hearing.
''Ramarley is not coming home to us," Franclot Graham said between sobs after the hearing. ''I keep asking, 'Why, why, why did he kill my son?' Eighteen years old. He did nothing to deserve this.''
Assistant District Attorney Donald Levin said in court that Haste "consciously and deliberately" made a decision to pull the trigger and shoot Graham.
"Ramarley Graham was in the bathroom with no place to go," said Levin.
But Haste's lawyer Stuart London said the officer thought he was going to be killed during his bathroom confrontation with Graham. He said Graham had made furtive movements in the hallway, refused to follow repeated orders to show his hands and even made a movement toward his waist.
"Officer Haste fired one time and yelled, 'Gun, gun,' because he thought he was going to be killed and wanted other officers to know (Graham) had a gun," said London.
"I thought he was going to shoot me so I shot him," the lawyer said quoting from Haste's statements.
London said Haste had "no choice" but to shoot when Graham refused to show his hands.
Cops chased Graham from White Plains Road and East 228th Street to his home at 749 E. 229th St. Officers investigating a drug deal believed that Graham had a gun in his waistband.
Three officers told Haste that Graham had a gun, with one officer saying he saw the handle of the gun in Graham's waistband, said London.
Haste even checked before entering the house and was told by a fellow officers they were sure there was a gun, his lawyer claims.
"When he woke up that morning, he had no intention to fire his weapon," said London.
He said Haste, who was on crutches due to an "unrelated motorcycle accident," was a resident of the Bronx who had lived there his entire life. After serving in the armed forces, Haste joined the NYPD four years ago.
Haste had been on the special narcotics unit just 60 days when the incident happened. He had no substantiated Civilian Complaint Review Board complaints, said his lawyer.
"Not guilty," were the only words Haste said during the arraignment.
Bronx Supreme Court Judge Martin Marcus set bail at $50,000, which Haste posted before heading home.
''We're here for a show of support for a New York City police officer who was put in a terrible position doing a difficult job," said Pat Lynch, president of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association.
"In this case, there was a tragedy, a loss of life. Anyone that loses a child or family member has that grief, and we respect that grief. In this case, the police officer thought there was a weapon.''
Lynch added afterward that if Graham had just raised his hands, 'We wouldn't be here today."
Speaking at a press conference after the hearing, Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson said no reasonable person could have believed Ramarley Graham had a gun.
''We take this day, we take this step forward. We know there will be many obstacles to come," said Graham family attorney Royce Russell. "We look forward to the trial.''
Russell said the shooting is part of a problem the NYPD has with its controversial stop and frisk policy and "having police misconduct go unchecked."
The Rev. Al Sharpton, head of the National Action Network, was in court to support the family. He said the notion that Haste felt threatened enough to shoot the unarmed teenager was outrageous.
"At the end of the day there was no gun, so what was (Ramarley Graham) reaching for?" Sharpton asked.