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U.S. Attorney's Office to Review NYPD Shooting Death of Ramarley Graham

By Jeff Mays | August 8, 2013 5:23pm | Updated on August 9, 2013 6:41am
 During a feverish rally pitched with emotion outside the Bronx District Attorney's office, the family of Ramarley Graham said they will petition the Justice Department to examine whether police officer Richard Haste violated the unarmed teen's civil rights when Haste fatally shot Graham in the bathroom of his own home last year
Ramarley Graham Rally
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THE BRONX — The U.S. Attorney's Office will review whether police officer Richard Haste violated the civil rights of the unarmed Ramarley Graham when he fatally shot the teen in the bathroom of his own home last year.

The move comes after a Bronx grand jury on Wednesday declined to re-indict Haste for the Feb. 2, 2012 shooting.

Jerika Richardson, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York, said the office would seek to "determine whether there were any violations of the federal criminal civil rights laws."

Graham's parents and attorneys, still upset by the failure to obtain a second criminal indictment against the officer, said the teen's rights were violated.

"If Ramarley was white would this have happened?" asked Franclot Graham, the dead teen's father, as he choked back tears during an emotional rally Thursday outside the Bronx District Attorney's office. "Would they have run in a white person's home?"

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 cops 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. The decision set off angry protests as about 100 people marched from Johnson's offices on E. 161 St. in the Bronx to the Adam Clayton Powell Jr. State Office Building on 125th Street.

Along the way, Franclot Graham would occasionally pause and announce to onlookers that the NYPD had burst into his son's home and shot and killed him but that a grand jury declined to indict the officer responsible.

"It hurts. It's like they killed my son all over again," Graham announced to a small crowd of people that gathered to listen at Lenox Avenue and 129th Street.

Outside of Corner Social on Lenox Avenue and 126th Street, a woman said: "It's sad. They kill you in your own house," after hearing Franclot Graham speak.

Ramarley Graham's mother Constance Malcolm also used the two rallies to express her grief and anger, often speaking in raw emotional and racial tones.

"Modern day lynching has to stop," said Malcolm, who along with her husband wore a T-shirt with a picture of her son and the phrase: "Where is my justice?"

"There was no gun. He was not running. He was not selling marijuana. So why is my son dead?" she asked later. "And I still can't get an answer. Not from the courts, and obviously I'm not going to get it from the system."

Graham family attorney Royce Russell said Haste's actions, including entering the Graham home and shooting the teen, were a violation of his civil rights. The failure to obtain an indictment also shows the need for a special prosecutor to oversee police shooting cases, he said.

"We want to make sure that the Department of Justice and the U.S. Attorney...move forward with charges of civil rights violations because justice was not served in Bronx County today," said Russell.

Supreme Court Justice Steven L. Barrett dismissed the manslaughter indictment against Haste in May because he said prosecutors' instructions to the grand jury who indicted  Haste were faulty.

Barrett said prosecutors erred when they told jurors that they did not have to consider communications Haste received from other officers when considering the indictment. Haste's attorneys and Police Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch have both argued that Haste's actions were determined by being told by fellow officers that Graham had a gun.

No gun was recovered. A small bag of marijuana was found in the toilet.

The Bronx District Attorney's Office disagreed with Barrett. Rather than appeal the decision, they re-presented the case to a new grand jury, a move the Graham family had called for.

According to a source who heard Haste testify before both grand juries, the officer's testimony before the new grand jury Wednesday was less "nervous" and more "emotional, precise and passionate."

Ramarley Graham's parents met with assistant district attorneys before the afternoon rally. They said Johnson was not present and his deputies offered no explanation as to why they were unable to obtain a second indictment, only saying that they felt they presented a strong and thorough case.

"I wish I could give you some information that would shed light on this anomaly, that sheds light on the fact that one day we have an indictment and one day we don't," said Russell, who questioned the competence of Johnson's office.

Franclot Graham also questioned Johnson's office, saying the family's request for a special prosecutor was denied.

"He said, 'No, we can handle it,'" Graham said sarcastically.

Johnson issued a statement earlier in the day expressing shock at the grand jury's decision.

“We are surprised and shocked by the Grand Jury’s finding of no criminal liability in the death of Ramarley Graham. We are saddened for the family of the deceased young man and still believe that the court’s dismissal of the original indictment was overly cautious," Johnson said.

Lynch, however, praised the grand jury's decision.

“When the second grand jury was presented with all of the evidence and was issued the proper instructions in deciding the case, they courageously came to the right and proper decision," he said in a statement.

The rally drew politicians and candidates from public office from around the city, including Comptroller John Liu, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer and mayoral candidate Bill Thompson.

"There's this mindset that if you are a person of color you must be up to no good — even if you are just walking home," said Liu, who chalked the shooting up to the city's controversial racial profiling tactics.

Richard Baldwin, 31, a campaign coordinator, said he was crushed to hear the grand jury's decision.

"It scares me because I plan on having children and I don't want my son or daughter to grow up in this mess," he said.

Franclot Graham said he's not sure if he'll ever recover.

"I got so much pain and anger inside of me and I'm trying to keep calm," he said. "But I lost my son."