Three years after NYPD officer Richard Haste chased unarmed Black teen Ramarley Graham into his grandmother’s bathroom and killed him for “acting suspicious and having a gun,” relatives made it clear that the $3.9 million wrongful death lawsuit they settled with the city last week will not prevent them from seeking justice and police reform.
Relatives, friends and dozens of activists gathered at a church in the Bronx Monday night, amid freezing temperatures, to memorialize the slain teen who was shot dead at age 18, Feb. 2, 2012.
“We got a settlement, but it will never take away the pain that the city caused me,” said Graham’s mother, Constance Malcolm, at a press conference before the memorial service. “We want to see Richard Haste get fired, and the other officers who were involved. That would kind of ease my pain. It won’t take it away, but to see them held accountable would be a start.”
Franclot Graham, the teen’s father, echoed similar calls for accountability. Graham, who wore a shirt with an image of his son and words that read, “Where is justice?” said, “What’s justice for me? All the officers in that team be held accountable for their actions, for their lies, for their disregard of the law, for their disregard of human rights.”
At the press conference, the parents were flanked by their attorneys, Bronx Councilman Andy King and civil rights
activist Tamika Mallory. They all renewed their call for the U.S. Department of Justice to indict the officers involved and directly made a plea to NYPD Commissioner William Bratton to fire the officers.
“We don’t need these people working for us,” said the slain teen’s father. “They’re dangerous, and they should not be collecting taxpayers’ dollars.”
Russell Royce, one of the attorneys, drew connections with other cases of police shooting unarmed Black teens, such as Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., while adding that police abuses are “a constant” around the country. He further emphasized that the lawsuit settlement “can never take the place of Ramarley.”
“[This] is only one facet that would bring some kind of closure to this tragic incident that shouldn’t have happened,” said Royce. “And the push of this family and others is to have the Department of Justice indict the officers. Then there would be some awareness about reforming the Police Department. There is nothing that is too big in the protocol of accountability to ensure this doesn’t happen again.”
In February 2012, Haste and one of his colleagues followed Graham into his bathroom, where he died in front of his grandmother and younger brother, who was 6 years old at the time.
According to the officers’ account, Graham was adjusting his pants on the street. He was acting suspicious, and they thought he had a gun. Police also claimed that the teen ran from the officers, but surveillance video showed that he walked to the front door, opened and entered it and then closed it. Seconds later, the video showed officers running to the door with guns drawn and trying to kick down the door Graham had entered. Several minutes later, footage shows Haste and a colleague in the yard after they successfully broke into the apartment without a warrant.
Inside the apartment, police said Graham tried to flush a small bag of marijuana down the toilet. Haste shot Graham once in the chest in self-defense. Investigators found no weapon on the teen or in the apartment.
Months after Graham’s death, the Bronx district attorney’s office indicted Haste on manslaughter charges. A judge then dismissed the charges because “misinformation” had been given to the grand jury, and there was a technicality. Another grand jury in the summer of 2013 decided not to re-indict the officer. The decision prompted the family to seek federal intervention.
Last September, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara officially confirmed to the family that the DOJ has launched a civil rights probe into the teen’s death. That announcement came a month after the parents and activists delivered 33,000 petitions to Bharara’s office demanding that the DOJ launch an investigation.
Last Friday, after the city made the settlement with the family, New York City Law Department spokesman Nicholas Paolucci said in a statement that the case was tragic. “After evaluating all the facts, and consulting with key stakeholders such as the NYPD, it was determined that settling the matter was in the best interest of the city,” he added.