“There’s a problem with this city,” attorney Jeff Emdin charged. “It’s a tale of two cities-a tale of blue and you.”
He explained that the “blue” is the NYPD and the “you” is the predominantly Black audience listening to him at the National Action Network last Saturday as Emdin recounted how 18-year-old Ramarley Graham was killed last Thursday in his home by a police officer.
“The police had no right to enter the premises,” said Emdin, who is representing the Graham family. “They broke down the door and burst into his home and shot an unarmed young man.”
According to police accounts Graham was “acting suspicious” outside a bodega in the Wakefield section of the Bronx when the police, who had Graham and two others under surveillance, claimed they saw the butt of a gun in his waist.
Later after Graham left a residence two officers leaped from a van and yelled “Police! Stop! Don’t move,” said Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, recounting what a witness had told the police.
There is a video tape of Graham arriving at his home at 749 E. 229th Street and unhurriedly opens his door and goes in. Seconds later a police officer is seen running up to the door with another officer behind him. Their guns are drawn as they bust down the door.
Gene Davis, a tenant in the building where Graham lived, said he saw the officers rushing through the outside gate. He said they yelled at him: “Don’t move! Get back!” according to a story in the New York Times.
At this point of the pursuit the officers fanned out in several directions, a police report stated, with a sergeant given access to a back entry and instructed that Graham lived on the second floor.
Once inside the building they knocked on Graham’s door and when no one answered they broke down the door, Commissioner Kelly said.
What happened inside is rather murky, though apparently Graham was encountered and asked to show his hands. “Gun! Gun!” was shouted by one of the officers. And then a shot was fired after Graham fled to the bathroom.
This account was supplied by another officer at the scene since the shooter has not been questioned because the investigation is ongoing. His name is not known but he is a 30-year-old white undercover narcotics officer.
Graham, an African American, was shot once and the bullet from the 9mm gun ripped through one of his lungs and his aorta, killing him with his grandmother, Patricia Hartley and his 6-year-old brother nearby.
“First of all,” said the Rev. Al Sharpton, “they had no business busting down the door. Please, don’t make us police haters, but this was wrong and somebody has got to answer to this. We want justice!”
Commissioner Kelly, who ordinarily is reluctant to speak about such tragedies until he is convinced he has all the facts said: “At this juncture, we see an unarmed person being shot. That always concerns us.”
Mayor Bloomberg was equally concerned about the incident. “Until we know what really happened there’s not a lot else I can say.”
“They killed him over a bag of reefer; that’s ridiculous,” said one of the spectators at NAN who chose not to give his name. “In my opinion that was coldblooded murder.”
Later, according to the police, they found a small package of marijuana that Graham may have been trying to flush down the toilet.
After hearing the police account, Chuck Baker, a retired NYPD detective, told the NAN audience that it smacked of a cover up by police.
“But we have some evidence they don’t know about,” Baker annouced. “The shenanigans they’ve put out about this is going to come back to haunt them.”
Attorney Neville Mitchell was so emotionally distraught that it took a few minutes for him to regain his composure.
“I’m sick and tired of this mess,” he said using another word for mess. “We must let them know we will not tolerate this anymore. Ray Kelly has got to go! He has no credibility.”