By Jeff Mays
U.S. DISTRICT COURT — The family of Ramarley Graham, the unarmed teen gunned down by police in his own home, hope that a federal civil suit will offer a second chance at justice that was denied when the criminal case against the police officer who shot Graham fell apart.
The lawsuit, and another filed by Graham's neighbor who was threatened by police just before the shooting, was cleared to proceed by U.S. District Court Judge P. Kevin Castel Tuesday. Both suits name former Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly and the NYPD as defendants.
"[Officer] Richard Haste should have been indicted," said Ramarley Graham's mother Constance Malcolm, referring to the officer who fired the fatal shot at her son almost two years ago. "The courtroom today was packed, which shows people want to see justice done."
On Feb. 2, 2012, officers from a special narcotics unit chased Graham, 18, from White Plains Road and East 228th Street to his home at 749 E. 229th St. in Wakefield because officers investigating a drug deal believed Graham had a gun in his waistband.
Officers chased Graham into his home, and Officer Richard Haste fatally shot the teen once in the chest in the bathroom. Police say they recovered a small bag of marijuana in the toilet. No weapon was found.
An initial indictment for manslaughter against Haste was dismissed by Supreme Court Justice Steven L. Barrett on May 15 after he ruled that the Bronx D.A. made an error in instructing the grand jury not to consider the fact that other officers told Haste that Graham had a gun.
Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson brought the case before a second grand jury. On Aug. 7 it was revealed that the new grand jury did not indict Haste. Sources say the officer gave more emotionally compelling and precise testimony than during the first grand jury hearing.
After the grand jury decision, the U.S. Attorney's Office announced that it would review whether Haste violated Graham's civil rights in the shooting death. That review is still pending, Graham attorney Royce Russell told Castel.
Also pending is the NYPD Internal Affairs Bureau review of the shooting which could determine whether the city also must represent Haste, said the officer's attorney.
Graham's family aren't the only people filing a lawsuit related to the incident that day. Attorney Andrew Hoffman represents Paulet Minzie, the owner of the building where Graham lived as well as her 8-year-old grandson Jyevion Dixon and his father Eric Dixon.
Hoffman alleges that Haste and other officers began pounding on the back door after Graham entered the home. He claims police pointed a gun at the 8-year-old to gain entry to the building and also at the boy's father and Minzie who had exited the shower with just a towel covering her when she heard a commotion.
Hoffman claims that police pointed a gun at Minzie causing her to drop her towel, exposing herself to the male officers and also to urinate on herself. They are suing the city for warrantless entry and trespassing among other claims.
"Officer Haste put his gun in the face of this 8-year-old child and ordered him outside," said Hoffman.
Castel ordered that the two cases proceed on the same discovery schedule. He also suggested mediation as a possible resolution to the Minzie case and possibly the Graham case. All parties are due back in court on Aug. 1.
"You can never fully compensate someone for the loss of their child," Russell said. "New York City and the police department officials above Richard Haste need to be held accountable for allowing this tragedy to take place."
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