The family of Ramarley Graham, the Bronx man who was shot and killed by an NYPD officer in his apartment in 2012, accused the NYPD of misleading the public on Tuesday, a day after the officer's disciplinary trial came to a close.
At a press conference in Midtown, Graham's mother, Constance Malcolm, played surveillance camera footage that was not shown at the trial, which she said should have been introduced as evidence. Malcolm and advocates who have been representing the family are arguing that crucial witnesses and information had also been excluded.
"The family of Ramarley Graham and the public was subjected to a web of lies by the NYPD," said Loyda Colon, who serves as co-director of the criminal justice advocacy group Justice Committee.
Graham's family has called for the firing of the officer, Richard Haste, as well as two other officers who were present at the scene of the shooting, and nine officers who later responded to the shooting. Sergeant Scott Morris and Officer John Mcloughlin are facing disciplinary charges related to the shooting, but their trials have not yet been scheduled.
"They all murdered my son," Malcolm said. "Richard Haste pulled the trigger, but they all finished it."
On the afternoon of February 2nd, 2012, Haste, who was surveilling a Bronx bodega for potential drug activity, observed Graham entering and exiting the store. Haste has claimed he saw what appeared to be a gun in Graham's waistband. Video footage shows Haste, Morris, and Mcloughlin entering the building after Graham. According to police testimony, the officers followed Graham to his apartment and then proceeded to bust down the door.
Graham was in the bathroom when Haste fatally shot him. Investigators did not recover a weapon from the scene, though a small amount of marijuana was found in the toilet. Graham's grandmother and six-year-old brother both witnessed the shooting.
Haste was originally indicted by a Bronx grand jury on two counts of manslaughter, but the case was dismissed in 2013 after a judge ruled prosecutors had erred in their instructions to the jury. A second grand jury declined to indict Haste and, last spring, federal prosecutors declined to pursue criminal charges, citing insufficient evidence.
In the current police trial, Haste was charged with using "poor tactical judgment" by breaking into the apartment and firing at Graham, and breaching protocol by failing to call for support or take cover. If convicted, he faces, at most, dismissal from the NYPD.
The central question in the trial was whether the officers were justified in kicking down the door to Graham's apartment and entering without a warrant. Haste's lawyers have said that Haste and the other officers' actions were justifiable because they believed Graham was armed and dangerous.
Haste's attorney, Stuart London, told Gothamist that it remains unclear whether Graham had been armed at the time that Haste saw him on the street. "I know they say he never had a gun, but I think that's not believable," London said.
But NYPD prosecutors argued at the trial that once Graham was inside his locked apartment, the officers should have retreated and called for back up.
Graham's family has claimed that Haste and the other officers on the scene ignored police protocol when they broke into the apartment. The family also says the officers sought to cover up their actions by not calling for an independent investigation of the crime scene.
Colon told reporters that the officers' behavior, as recorded by surveillance cameras in front of and behind the house, indicated that they did not fear for their lives. Colon noted that Haste brought his face up to the glass of the front door, indicating he was not worried about being shot through the door, and that Haste and Mcloughlin both turned their backs to the building while standing outside of it before entering. Colon also argued that key facts in the case, including that Graham—as seen in video footage—was not running from police when he entered his apartment building, were obscured during the trial.
"The reason they targeted Ramarley was because he was a young, black man walking with a purpose," Colon said in reference to the officers' decision to pursue Graham.
(Courtesy Graham family)
Malcolm's attorney, Royce Russell, called the officers' actions "the highest illustration of recklessness." He said he believes they should have faced a criminal trial. He also said the disciplinary trial, which did not include any civilian witnesses, "did not look at the totality of the circumstances."
London said in an interview with Gothamist that if any civilian witnesses, including Graham's grandmother, had "valuable material or relevant information," they would have been called to testify.
While Haste testified, according to the NY Times, that he was "not pleased with the result" of his encounter with Graham, he defended his actions. "I know that what I did was justified in that I protected my life and my team, based on the information we had at hand," he told the court.
Malcolm said she hopes the department will institute policies that promote accountability and transparency in cases of alleged police misconduct.
Rosemarie Maldonado, the deputy commissioner who presided over the trial, will make recommendations on departmental action on Haste’s case to Commissioner James P. O'Neill. O'Neill has final say in the matter.
Meanwhile, Haste has been on modified duty since the shooting, and his salary, records show, has increased $30,000 since 2012 to $94,364 in 2016. In 2015, the city settled a wrongful-death lawsuit brought by Graham's family for $3.9 million.
The NYPD did not respond to Gothamist’s request for comment.
Update: It was originally unclear whether the NYPD would make public O'Neill's decision because of its newly broadened interpretation of the New York State Civil Rights Law, which protects NYPD officers' disciplinary records from public view. But on Wednesday, Deputy Commissioner Kevin Richardson said the NYPD plans to make the final outcome of Haste's trial public. Richardson said the NYPD is making an exception to the civil rights law because of the importance of Graham's case.