BLACK VOICES

No Federal Charges For NYPD Cop Who Shot And Killed Ramarley Graham

Federal prosecutors said they lacked proof the officer "willfully" deprived the 18-year-old of his civil rights.
Frank Graham, the father of slain teen Ramarley Graham, at a march in New York against the city's stop-and-frisk policy
Frank Graham, the father of slain teen Ramarley Graham, at a march in New York against the city's stop-and-frisk policy in 2012.

NEW YORK -- Federal prosecutors won't bring civil rights charges against the NYPD police officer who shot and killed Ramarley Graham, an 18-year-old who was gunned down in his own home in 2012.

Citing the difficulty of proving intent under federal civil rights law, Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement Tuesday that "there is insufficient evidence" to prosecute Richard Haste, the NYPD officer who fired the single round that killed Graham.

"The investigation revealed no evidence to refute Officer Haste's claim that he shot Mr. Graham in response to his mistaken belief that Mr. Graham was reaching for a gun," read Bharara's statement.

Believing Graham possessed a firearm, Haste and other NYPD officers followed him to his his family's apartment in the Bronx, where they barged into the unit with his grandmother and 6-year-old brother present. Haste followed Graham into a bathroom, where he shot him dead after he thought the teen was making a move for his waistband. No gun was found on Graham or in the apartment.

With the announcement, the federal probe into Graham's death is officially closed. According to the statement, Bharara met with Graham's family to tell them about his office's decision not to prosecute and to offer his condolences. 

February marked the four-year anniversary of Graham's death, and his family had hoped that the federal investigation would shed light on the many unanswered questions in the case.

Constance Malcolm, Graham's mother, called Tuesday's news "another slap in the face," according to The New York Post.

"This is sending the wrong message. In your own home, you're not even safe anymore," she told a gathering of reporters outside Bharara's office.

A Bronx grand jury had voted to indict Haste in 2012, but a judge later threw it out on a procedural error. A second grand jury failed to indict Haste a year later. Because New York law guards grand jury secrecy, it is unknown what the prosecution did or didn't present to grand jurors. Federal prosecutors took up the case after these failed attempts at indicting the officer.

Last year, the city settled a federal lawsuit brought by the family for $3.9 million.

The NYPD, for its part, had said that the department would not release the findings of its own internal affairs investigation of Haste's role in the killing until after the conclusion of the federal probe. But when asked about it, NYPD Lieutenant John Grimpel demurred.

"Now that the federal investigation into the Ramarley Graham case has concluded, the NYPD's internal disciplinary process will move forward," he told The Huffington Post in an email.

Graham's case was an early catalyst for what would later become the Black Lives Matter movement -- police reform and accountability demonstrations that reached a fever pitch following the killings of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner in New York City.

Neither of the officers involved in those deaths faced criminal repercussions, and on the whole prosecutions of officers who kill civilians remain rare. Perhaps as a result of increased public scrutiny around police brutality, 2015 saw a slight uptick in officers getting charged

In February, a New York jury broke with convention when it returned a guilty verdict for manslaughter and official misconduct for Peter Liang. The officer was accused in the killing of Akai Gurley, a black man shot dead in a Brooklyn public housing stairwell in 2014.

On the three-year anniversary of Graham's death, Malcolm told HuffPost she already sensed she might not ever get justice for her son.

"Three years later and we still don't have any answers," she said. "And we might not ever have any answers, the way this system is working against us."

Christopher Mathias contributed reporting.

HuffPost

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