CIVIC CENTER — More than two and half years after unarmed 18-year-old Ramarley Graham was shot and killed by police in his own home, the Manhattan U.S. Attorney's office confirmed it has launched a civil rights investigation into the matter.
The news came as a relief to the boy's parents Constance Malcolm and Franclot Graham, who met with U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara Wednesday afternoon to urge the federal government to step in after a grand jury declined to re-indict officer Richard Haste on manslaughter charges last year.
"From the day they took my son I made him a promise to fight for justice," Franclot Graham said after meeting with Bharara and his staff.
The U.S. Attorney's office declined to comment on the probe and referred to a statement issued last month after Malcolm delivered 33,000 petitions to Bharara's office demanding an investigation which said the office was conducting an "independent review of the evidence."
Graham's family and their representatives said it was the first confirmation that an official investigation into their son's death was underway since Bharara's office announced they were reviewing the case in August of last year.
"For a while the family had no idea what the status of the case was, whether they were still reviewing, whether they were investigating. There has been confirmation today that an investigation is taking place," said Loida Colon, co-director of the Justice Committee.
"Ramarley's parents have waited over two years now for the police officer who killed their son to be held accountable," she added.
The family said that Bharara and his staff did not delve into details of the investigation such as whether a grand jury had been impaneled or if witnesses were being interviewed. They were also not given a timeline for the investigation.
"What is new is that we are confident they are investigating. What is new is that we have an understanding there is a team put in place to insure that Ramarley Graham receives the fairest of investigations that hopefully would lead to the convening of a grand jury and indictment," said Graham family attorney Royce Russell.
Malcolm said her goal was to have a grand jury examine her son's death.
"We hope going forward they continue the investigation and eventually get a grand jury," said Malcolm.
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.
Haste pursued Graham into his home and fatally shot the teen in the bathroom. No weapon was found. Lawyers for the officer say he was responding to reports from his fellow officers that Graham had a gun.
Haste was indicted for manslaughter by a Bronx grand jury but a judge dismissed the indictment because of improper jury instructions from the Bronx District Attorney's office. Haste testified before a second grand jury which unexpectedly declined to indict him again in Aug. 2013.
Graham's family immediately began calls for a federal investigation.
Officials from the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, the union which represents the city's police officers, had no immediate comment.
The NYPD's public information office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.