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Federal prosecutors to review the Ramarley Graham case

Craig D. Frazier | 9/12/2013, 4:47 p.m.
Protestors for Ramarley Graham in June of 2012 Leonardo Claudio

Federal prosecutors will review the case of Ramarley Graham—the unarmed Black teenager shot to death in his parents’ Bronx home by a city cop—to determine whether civil rights were violated.

After a grand jury declined to reindict Officer Richard Haste for killing Graham, the Department of Justice decided it would investigate the killing. The move is not unprecedented.

“We are surprised and shocked by the grand jury’s finding of no criminal liability in the death of Ramarley Graham,” said Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson. “We are saddened for the family of the deceased young man.”

Haste is on modified duty after the controversial February 2012 Bronx drug bust in which he pursued Graham into his grandmother’s apartment and shot him at close range in the bathroom.

In the minutes before the shooting on Feb. 2, 2012, a street narcotics unit team had been staking out a bodega in the Wakefield section of the Bronx, acting on a tip of drug sales out front. Two officers then reported that they believed one of three men seen leaving the bodega together had a gun. Further police radio communications reinforced that notion.

Graham’s parents and their supporters feel the criminal justice system has failed them, just as it failed the families of Trayvon Martin, Kenneth Chamberlain Sr., Kimani Gray and Sean Bell.

“According to the police, they were attempting to stop him on the street, based on the belief that he had a gun. We submit that this is merely a thinly veiled excuse to justify inexcusable and unconstitutional conduct, much like Haste’s lie that he shot Ramarley because he thought he was reaching for a weapon that never existed,” Graham’s parents wrote in a statement to the AmNews.

“It is our belief that the police targeted Ramarley based on the color of his skin, his age and his clothes. There was absolutely no evidence to support any belief that he committed or was about to commit a crime.”

NYPD 2012 statistics indicate that 96 percent of all shooting victims and 97 percent of all shooting suspects in the city were Black or Latino. The report also shows that more than 90 percent of New Yorkers stopped-and-frisked in 2012 were Black and Latino.

The parents maintain that Haste and Sgt. Scott Morris should never have entered the house. “Now our son is dead, killed in the sanctity of his own home. We hope that the Justice Department will help us heal and secure justice,” said Frank Graham, Ramarley Graham’s father. “The tragic events are a clear violation of civil rights and was unconstitutional. We demand prosecution.”