Judge to NYPD: turn over records on Ramarley Graham’s death

Stephon Johnson | 8/16/2018, 4:23 a.m.
A judge has demanded that the NYPD turn over records on the death of Ramarley Graham.
Ramarley Graham

A judge has demanded that the NYPD turn over records on the death of Ramarley Graham.

New York Supreme Court Justice Manuel J. Mendez ordered the police department to release documents to Graham’s family that could shed new light on the 2012 killing of Graham by former officer Richard Haste.

In the ruling, Mendez wrote, “There is a public interest in Ramarley Graham’s family obtaining the records to obtain clarity and closure concerning the events of Feb. 2, 2012.”

Constance Malcolm, the mother of Ramarley Graham, praised the ruling and condemned the police department for not releasing these records on their own volition.

“The NYPD should have released these files years ago. It’s outrageous, but under de Blasio’s NYPD it’s not surprising that I had to sue to get information related to the murder of my son, and that they’ve fought the release of these files for so long,” said Malcolm in a statement. “It’s been a painful journey to try to get some measure of accountability for my son Ramarley, but I am glad Judge Mendez has ruled in my favor and that he saw through the NYPD’s lies.”

On Feb. 2, 2012, Haste shot 18-year-old Graham in the chest in the bathroom of his home in the Wakefield section of the Bronx. Officers followed Graham and broke into his home without a warrant. Haste murdered Graham in his own bathroom while his grandmother and brother were present and while his grandmother was directly in the line of fire. After the shooting, officers searched for a gun on Graham, but only found a bag of marijuana in the toilet.

Haste was indicted on criminal charges, but the indictment was eventually dismissed on a technicality. A second try at an indictment failed. Haste wasn’t charged with any civil rights violations.

Graham’s family, along with Communities United for Police Reform and the Justice Committee, filed a joint Freedom of Information Law request in September 2016 for NYPD records related to the shooting. The police department denied the request the following March and only released a few documents.

“In the last over two years, the NYPD and city lawyers made a litany of excuses for withholding thousands of pages of records about Mr. Graham’s killing and related NYPD investigations,” said Gideon Orion Oliver, the lawyer for Graham’s family, in a statement. “For example, they claimed the documents were ‘personnel records’ under NY Civil Rights Law 50-a and that releasing them would threaten officers because Mr. Graham’s family and advocates wanted to use them to call for police accountability. The Court has rejected those arguments as to a broad swath of the responsive records, ruling that the NYPD lacked legal justification for withholding them, that the NYPD can no longer keep them secret, that doing so was unreasonable in the first place, and assessing attorney’s fees against the city.”

NYPD officials must turn over the remaining records on Graham by early September unless they try to appeal the ruling. Attempts to contact the NYPD and the mayor’s office for comment were unsuccessful.

“The over six-year ordeal the NYPD and de Blasio administration put Ramarley’s family through in order to get some level of transparency is a grave injustice heaped upon the injustice of losing Ramarley to the NYPD along with the wide range of police misconduct and abuse they suffered related to his death,” stated Justice Committee Co-Director Loyda Colon in a statement. “It’s important to understand that the level of transparency we have achieved in this case could not have happened without the leadership of Ramarley’s mother, Constance Malcolm, and six-plus years of citywide organizing.”