ONE POLICE PLAZA — The police officer who shot and killed an unarmed Ramarley Graham said on the witness stand Friday he thought he "was about to get shot" by the teen when he pulled the trigger in Graham's home in 2012.
Officer Richard Haste took the stand in an NYPD trial to determine whether he should be fired for breaching department protocols in events leading up to the fatal shooting. It was also the first time the public heard directly from him about what he says happened during the fatal encounter in Graham's bathroom on Feb. 2, 2012.
"I was convinced there is absolutely no way I am going to live, and get out of there alive," Haste testified, adding that he saw Graham fumbling with his waistband, which he thought meant he was reaching for a gun. "I thought I was about to get shot."
"I expected to be dead," he said.
The trial is not to determine whether Haste was wrong to shoot Graham. Instead, it is to decide whether he appropriately followed NYPD procedures in chasing Graham into his home.
A Bronx grand jury had previously declined to indict Haste, and the U.S. Attorney's office also declined to bring charges against the officer for allegedly violating Graham's civil rights.
During nearly 80 minutes of testimony answering questions from his union lawyer, Stuart London, Haste laid out his actions and mindset as he pursued the 18-year-old teen whom his fellow officers claimed had a gun.
He chased him into his home, entering through a rear door and then climbing a flight of stairs to a second floor landing. He heard sounds from behind a door there, but no one opened when he knocked and said he was the police.
He and his partner, Officer John McLoughlin, then bashed open the door. Haste, with his gun drawn, stepped into a hallway and saw Graham at the other end.
Haste said Graham repeatedly refused to "show me your hands" which were in his waistband, and cursed at the officer to “Get the f—k out.”
"The last thing I ever wanted to do on this job was fire that weapon,” Haste said.
Graham’s mother, Constance Malcolm, and other relatives and friends, could be seen shaking their heads several times.
“Liar,” one of them yelled out when Haste claimed he did not initially see Graham’s kid brother or grandmother in the apartment.
Haste, who joined the force in 2008, then described the final moments when he followed Graham through another door that turned out to be the bathroom.
“He had his hands in waistband," he said. "I wanted to take him into custody. I want to put an end to this. I kept shouting ‘Show me your hands.'”
Haste said Graham cursed at him again and then “his hands went further into his pants.”
“I thought I had waited too long,” and he fired.
A fellow officer pulled him out of the bathroom. He was unsure if he had been shot. Then he saw Graham’s brother and grandmother, who were screaming.
He looked in the bathroom and saw “a tan boot pointing up.”
During cross examination, NYPD prosecutor Beth Douglass asked Haste about how he made one decision after another during the incident without ever consulting his sergeant, or retreating from the apartment and calling for help from the highly-trained Emergency Services Unit.
Since the shooting, Haste said he has questioned himself “if I could have done it better.”
In the end, he said, “I wondered if he did not have a gun, why did he progress towards me? None of it makes sense.”
“I can look in the mirror,” he said. “I know it was justified.”
After he testified, Graham’s mother, Constance Malcolm, blasted Haste.
“He doesn’t have any remorse, and he doesn’t look like he had any remorse," Malcolm said. “Everyday he comes to court with that stupid grin on his damn face.”
Closing argument are scheduled for Monday at 1 p.m.