Hundreds of protesters, angry and upset over the shooting of Ramarley Graham by a NYPD officer a week ago, gathered outside the 47th Precinct in the Bronx on Monday evening.
“The NYPD is the KKK” was one of the chants aimed at the phalanx of officers outside the station.
It was similar to the response last Saturday at the National Action Network when the incident was explained by attorney Jeffery Emdin, who is representing the Graham family.
“There’s a problem with this city,” 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” was the predominantly Black audience listening to him at NAN as Emdin recounted how the 18-year-old Graham was killed in his home by a police officer.
“The police had no right to enter the premises,” said Emdin, who was joined on stage by several members of 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 leapt from a van and yelled, “Police! Stop! Don’t move,” according to NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly, who recounted what a witness told the police.
A video surveillance tape shows Graham arriving at his home at 749 E. 229th St., unhurriedly opening his door and going in. Seconds later, a police officer is seen running up to the door with another officer behind him. Their guns are drawn as they try to 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, the officers fanned out in several directions, a police report stated, seeking other ways to get into the building. A sergeant was given access to a back entry and then instructed that Graham lived on the second floor.
Once inside the building, they knocked on Graham’s apartment door. When no one answered, they smashed their way in, said Kelly.
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. A shot was then 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 Richard Haste, a 30-year-old white undercover narcotics officer. He and Sgt. Scott Morris have been placed on “modified duty.”
Graham, an African-American, was shot once and the bullet from the officer’s 9mm gun ripped through one of his lungs and his aorta, killing him while his grandmother, Patricia Hartley-who was subsequently detained for more than five hours at a local precinct-and his 6-year-old brother stood nearby. No gun was found.
“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!”
Kelly, who is ordinarily 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 Michael 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, Carlton Berkley, 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,” Berkley announced. “The shenanigans they’ve put out about this is going to come back to haunt them.”
Attorney Neville Mitchell, representing the landlord of the building where Graham lived, 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.”
On Tuesday evening, Emdin told the Amsterdam News that most urgently now for the family is to secure counseling for Graham’s brother, given the trauma he experienced. Money is being raised for Graham’s funeral and burial, he added.