BLACK VOICES

With All Eyes On Ferguson, New York Protesters Say 'We Can't Forget Ramarley Graham'

08/20/2014 06:57 pm ET | Updated Aug 21, 2014

NEW YORK-- Constance Malcolm and Franclot Graham are still waiting for their day in court. It’s been over two and a half years since NYPD Officer Richard Haste shot and killed their unarmed 18-year-old son, Ramarley Graham, after breaking into Malcolm’s Bronx apartment without a warrant.

On Wednesday, Malcolm and Graham hand-delivered 33,000 petitions to the Department of Justice in lower Manhattan. The petitions called for a full federal investigation into their son's death, and for DOJ to convene a grand jury and indict Haste on civil rights charges.

ramarley graham

Franclot Graham cries on Wednesday while talking about his son's death. (AP/Bebeto Matthews)

“The DA in the Bronx threw away this case after we begged him to give it to a special prosecutor or ask the federal government to prosecute,” Graham told reporters before delivering the petitions. “We haven’t had a meeting. We haven’t had a face-to-face with anyone. We feel second-class, not even second-class, we feel as though we don’t even count, like we don’t even exist.”

A grand jury indicted Haste for manslaughter in 2012, but the indictment was tossed out because of a prosecutorial mistake. After a second grand jury declined to indict Haste, the Justice Department announced it would review the case. That was over a year ago, and nothing has happened.

“It has been pain and torture for me night and day, just dealing with them murdering my son and no one looking at us,” Graham said, choking back tears. “And frankly, I’m frustrated because my son counts. My son counts. And I will not stop fighting because he counts.”

The Department of Justice did not respond to The Huffington Post's request for comment. [See update below.]

After handing the petitions over to justice department officials, Malcolm and Graham -- along with a group of lawmakers, attorneys, and police reform advocates -- turned around and thrust their arms into the air. “Hands up! Don’t shoot!” a crowd of protesters chanted. It was a show of solidarity with protesters in Ferguson, Missouri, where another white officer shot and killed another unarmed black teen, Michael Brown, on Aug. 9. Witnesses say Brown had his arms in the air before he was fatally shot by officer Darren Wilson.

ramarley graham

Franclot Graham, middle row left, and Constance Malcom, middle row right, raise hands with supporters with a refrain of "hands up, don't shoot," outside the U.S. Attorney's office. (AP/Bebeto Matthews)

State Assemblyman Karim Camara (D-Bronx) marched alongside Malcolm and Graham Wednesday. "We can’t forget Ramarley Graham," he said. "We can’t allow recent events, whether it’s in Ferguson or Staten Island, to allow us to forget Ramarley Graham.” Over a month ago, another unarmed black man, Eric Garner, died on Staten Island after a NYPD officer put him in a chokehold.

City Councilman Andy King lives a few blocks from where Graham was killed. He said that if the Justice Department doesn’t respond swiftly to cases like these, the protests and turmoil in Ferguson could come to New York.

“There’s going to come a point where we’re gonna stop writing on pieces of paper and those 33,000 are going to take to the streets,” King said. “There’s going to come a time when we we won’t be able to hold back the waters, and when that happens, and the dam is released, then we’re going to have a bigger problem on the streets of New York.”

On Feb. 2, 2012, a NYPD narcotics unit in the Bronx spotted Graham outside a convenience store talking to friends. Officers said they saw Graham adjust his waistband and thought he was carrying a gun.

Authorities said Graham then took off running towards his house, but surveillance footage shows the 18-year-old calmly walking up to his front door, unlocking it, and stepping inside. Seconds later, that same footage shows Haste and another officer running up to the house and attempting to knock down the door.

After four to five minutes of trying to get inside, the officers managed to get in through the back door, where they ran upstairs and broke down the door to Graham’s apartment. There, Haste went into the bathroom and shot Graham once in the chest in front of his grandmother and six-year-old brother.

No gun was found on Graham, nor anywhere in the apartment. Authorities said he was flushing a bag of marijuana down the toilet just before he was shot.

UPDATE: 9:45a.m., Aug. 21, 2014 -- On Wednesday evening, The Department Of Justice released the following statement from spokesperson James Margolin:

“Last fall, this Office began an independent review of the evidence regarding the death of Ramarley Graham after the local authorities completed their investigation and ultimately were not able to bring any charges arising out of the shooting. Today we received a letter from the mother of Ramarley Graham and other materials, which we are reviewing. This Office is acutely aware of how painful it is to lose a child in an encounter with law enforcement under any circumstances. In addition to reviewing evidence obtained from local authorities, this Office has been conducting its own independent investigation of this tragic incident. There are many reasons that a federal civil rights investigation should be conducted confidentially, including grand jury secrecy rules, as well as prudential and other reasons, including fairness to all the parties involved. Above all, a proper investigation must be thorough, fair and independent so that in the end justice is done, and we are absolutely committed to that. Finally, it should be understood that this Office has repeatedly been in communication with the attorneys for the mother of Mr. Graham and we will continue to do so."

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