CIVIC CENTER — Federal prosecutors will not bring civil rights charges against the NYPD officer who shot unarmed 18-year-old Ramarley Graham to death in 2012, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara told Graham's family on Tuesday.
With tears in their eyes, the Graham family addressed the media after their 90-minute meeting with Bharara and called for Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner William Bratton to fire all the officers involved in the shooting.
"Black lives don't matter," Graham's father, Franclot Graham, said about Bharara's decision to not bring the case before a grand jury.
"We just feel as if Ramarley's life never mattered, from the Bronx [district attorney's] office, straight to this office," Graham added.
On Feb. 2, 2012, officers from a special narcotics unit chased Graham from White Plains Road and East 228th Street to his home at 749 E. 229th St. in Wakefield because they believed he had a gun in his waistband.
NYPD Officer Richard Haste pursued Graham into his home and fatally shot the teen in the bathroom. No weapon was found. Lawyers for the officer said he was responding to reports from his fellow officers that Graham had a gun.
Haste was indicted for manslaughter by a Bronx grand jury in 2012 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 in August 2013, but it did not indict him.
Graham's family has pushed for federal civil rights charges since then because they believed Graham's rights were violated when the officers kicked their way into the apartment. But Graham's mother said she was not optimistic.
Graham's family settled a wrongful death suit against the city for $3.9 million in January 2015.
"I didn't have any faith in the system. The Bronx DA already failed us," said Graham's mother, Constance Malcolm who called the decision "another slap in the face."
In a statement, Bharara's office said there was "insufficient evidence to meet the high burden of proof required for a federal criminal civil rights prosecution."
Prosecutors would have had the difficult task of establishing that Haste "willfully deprived an individual of a constitutional right, meaning that the officer acted with the deliberate and specific intent to do something the law forbids," the statement continued.
After conducting an investigation, Bharara's office found that officers followed Graham to his home and that the teen quickly went inside after he looked in the direction of Haste and another officer exiting their vehicle.
Haste went to the door and found it locked and unsuccessfully tried to kick the door open. Haste then went around to the back of the house where he gained entry and was followed inside by another officer. Haste then opened the front door of the house and let two additional officers in.
The city paid $190,000 to settle a lawsuit brought by the other family that lived in the two-family home.
Haste and another officer went up to the second floor and one of the officers kicked in the door to the Graham's apartment. Haste, with his gun drawn, moved into the hallway of the apartment where he encountered Graham. Haste says he identified himself as the police and ordered Graham to "show me your hands."
Instead, Haste said, the teen moved further down the hallway and into a bathroom. Even though Graham's grandmother and 6-year-old brother were home at the time of the incident, no other witness had a view of Graham, according to Bharara's office.
Haste claims that he looked into the bathroom and saw Graham facing him with his hand in his waistband and then "made a motion" as if he were pulling something out of his waistband.
"Officer Haste stated that he believed that Mr. Graham was reaching for the weapon that had been described in the earlier radio transmission, and that he fired one round from his weapon in response to a perceived deadly threat," said the statement from Bharara's office.
No weapon was found but a small bag of marijuana was found in the toilet bowl that Graham was standing next to.
In order to proceed with a federal civil rights charge, prosecutors would have had to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Haste "lacked probable cause to believe that Mr. Graham posed a significant threat of death or serious physical injury to the officer or to others, and that he willfully deprived Mr. Graham of his right to be free from excessive force."
Bharara's office said their investigation found no such evidence.
"There are no witness accounts or physical evidence that materially contradict Officer Haste’s statement that Mr. Graham appeared to be pulling something from his waistband at the time of the shooting," the statement continued. "Nor is there any video of the shooting itself."
Royce Russell, an attorney for Graham's family, said the case proves that authorities always give police officers the benefit of the doubt.
"If it's your word against a police officer's word be quiet because your word will not be heard," said Russell.
The Rev. Al Sharpton criticized Bharara's decision and called for the "immediate termination" of the officers involved. Haste remains on administrative leave.
“I am extremely disappointed and can see no logic in law or reason why the U.S. Attorney’s office would not proceed with a grand jury in the case of an unarmed young man killed in the bathroom of his own house when there was absolutely no threat to officers," Sharpton said in a statement.
Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. called Bharara's decision an "outrage" and said he "owes our community a real explanation" because "the U.S. Attorney’s office has failed to set an example for our nation."
Patrolmen's Benevolent Association president Patrick Lynch said in a statement that he was "gratified that there will be no charges" but "there is no winner" in this situation.
"The officer was working to combat the scourge of guns and drugs in the community. The good faith effort to combat those ills brought us to this tragedy. We extend our sympathies to the family," Lynch said.