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Feds involvement demanded as family marks 21st birthday of Ramarley Graham

Cyril Josh Barker | 4/24/2014, 10:49 a.m.
“I was unable to celebrate Ramarley’s 21st birthday last Saturday or his last two birthdays, and instead have been forced ...
Justice for Ramarley

“I was unable to celebrate Ramarley’s 21st birthday last Saturday or his last two birthdays, and instead have been forced to memorialize his life,” said Constance Malcolm, the mother of Ramarley Graham.

Instead of planning what for many people is a milestone birthday party earlier this month, Malcolm remains vigilant in her fight for justice in the death of her unarmed son at the hands of the NYPD. The story has become all too familiar for many Black families.

Joined by elected officials and civil rights groups, Malcolm and her family are demanding that the U.S. Department of Justice conduct a formal and thorough investigation into Graham’s shooting death by the NYPD.

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Council Member Jumaane Williams speaking on Ramarley Graham

Graham, an 18-year-old Bronx resident, was shot and killed by NYPD Officer Richard Haste in the bathroom of his family’s home in front of his grandmother and 6-year-old brother after Haste unlawfully busted into the house in February 2012.

After the office of the Bronx district attorney failed to indict, the U.S. Department of Justice indicated it was reviewing the case, but there have been no indications that it has opened a full investigation.

A demonstration was held last week at the U.S. District Court demanding that the department investigate what happened. A list of politicos joined Malcolm, including state Sens. Adriano Espaillat, Ruth Hassell-Thompson and Bill Perkins, Assembly Members Walter T. Mosley, Félix Ortiz and Keith L.T. Wright, and Council Member Jumaane Williams.

“All I want is justice for the murder of my son, and the Department of Justice is truly the only level of our justice system left that can provide accountability for the violation of Ramarley’s civil rights,” Malcolm said. “They must act and provide a sense of basic equality that demonstrates our country equally respects the rights and lives of young men of color.”

The chairs and members of the New York State Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus and the New York City Council Black, Latino and Asian Caucus stood with the family to announce that they had sent letters to Attorney General Eric Holder requesting an official investigation by the Department of Justice into the death of Graham.

“The fact that there has not been a thorough and exhaustive investigation into the death of Ramarley Graham compounds the tragedy this family has faced,” said Assemblyman Karim Camara, chair of the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus.

City Councilman Andy King, who also serves as co-chair of the Council’s Black, Latino and Asian Caucus, noted that from the alleged gun that was never discovered to the “callous” manner in which this family alleges they were treated by the NYPD, too many questions remain unanswered.

“Not only must we ensure the circumstances surrounding his tragic death are not forgotten, but we must also send a strong message to young men of color that we value their lives and we will fight to protect their civil rights. It is my hope that the Department of Justice acts promptly, as it is abundantly clear that this case necessitates further investigation,” he said.

Reports indicate that the Department of Justice said the review is ongoing and has yet to publicly comment on the situation.

“When a child gets killed by a police officer in the bathroom of his family’s house, something has gone terribly wrong,” said New York Civil Liberties Executive Director Donna Lieberman. “If New York City and New York state refuse to investigate, then that means it’s time for the Department of Justice to do so. We’re here talking about a child’s life. The stakes are too high to allow this tragedy to go unanswered.”