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Clergy slams NYPD in unarmed man shooting

HERB BOYD Special to the AmNews | 4/16/2013, 4:34 p.m.
Stop and frisk, Occupy protestors branded by NYPD

A contingent of clergy from all five boroughs, led by the Revs. Al Sharpton and Herb Daughtry, assembled Monday outside the Bronx district attorney's office to express their outrage over the death of Ramarley Graham two weeks ago.

Graham, 18, was killed by a NYPD officer who pursued him into his home, entering without a warrant and shooting him under the pretext that he was armed, though no gun was found.

That officer and his supervisor have been placed on modified duty.

"Ramarley was killed for no reason," Sharpton told the press. "No crime was committed, he had no record and no weapon was found. You don't break down somebody's door and shoot them in their own home."

If anything has to be broken, Sharpton inferred, "it has to be the code of silence among NYPD officers. We can't have our children being shot in their own home. And, furthermore, the city should have the decency to at least discuss this issue."

Joining the clergy was attorney Royce Russell, who zeroed in on the lack of training by the narcotics officers, something even Police Commissioner Ray Kelly has responded to, ordering Chief Joseph Esposito to conduct an "overall review" of such low-level narcotics operations and the teams involved.

"Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson must do the right thing," Russell continued, "and I do believe that he will do the right thing." Attempts to reach the district attorney were not successful.

According to the Rev. Dr. W. Frankyn Richardson, board chair of the National Action Network, "The system is broken and we're tired of meeting like this over and over again. The police are not our enemy; they are here to protect us, but the system is insensitive to our community and it needs to be overhauled."

Daughtry put the current tragedy in historical perspective with a particular emphasis on the NYPD shooting death of Eleanor Bumpurs in 1984. When Bumpurs refused to open her apartment door in the Bronx, the police broke in and she was shot twice with a 12-guage shotgun.

"I'm 81 and I don't feel I can come to many of these incidents," Daughtry asserted.

The Rev. Michael Waldron of First Corinthian Baptist Church in Harlem said that people in the community feel they are living "in an occupied territory...and the bullying by the NYPD, the illegally sanctioned homicide" has to stop.

From Brooklyn came longtime activist the Rev. Conrad Tillard of Nazarene Congressional United Church, who said that while the community generally appreciates the police, something must be done "when they fall short of their duty." "Despite all the changes I see here in the Bronx, Blacks are still being killed by the police," said Tillard.

To date, only two weeks into the new year, the NYPD has killed four people, nearly half the total they killed all of last year.

"We need a little bit of justice," said William Bell, the father of Sean Bell, who was killed by the police five years ago. "All I want to know is, when are they going to stop killing our children?"

Attorney Jeff Emdin, who represents the Graham family, wasn't at the press conference, but last week he said in a telephone interview that money is being raised to counsel Graham's traumatized grandmother and 6-year-old brother, both of whom were in the apartment when Graham was killed while attempting to flush a bag of marijuana down the toilet, the police reported.

Money is also needed to bury Graham, Emdin said. "And there's been some gradual progress on this."