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Friday, June 14, 2024 | Back issues
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No Charges for Cops|Who Shot Unarmed Teen

MANHATTAN (CN) - The late Ramarley Graham's mother choked back tears as she told reporters that federal prosecutors will not convene a grand jury to investigate the police officer who shot and killed her unarmed son more than four years ago.

"The justice system doesn't seem like our kids matter," Constance Malcolm told reporters Tuesday in front of New York federal prosecutors' headquarters at 1 St. Andrew's Plaza.

Malcolm made her remarks immediately after meeting with Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, who formally closed the book on a criminal civil rights investigation of New York City police officer Richard Haste.

Tuesday's announcement may not have occurred if the Graham family had not camped out of Bharara's office on Feb. 2, four years to the day after Haste shot and killed 18-year-old Graham in his Bronx home.

In 2012, Haste and other police officers on a narcotics team said they spotted Graham adjusting his pants outside of a bodega they had been performing surveillance on in the Wakefield neighborhood of the Bronx, and claimed that he may have been carrying a firearm.

Entering his house without a warrant, Haste said that he yelled, "Police, show me your hands," before Graham moved down the hallway to the bathroom.

Police claimed the teenager was fumbling with his waistband and had been flushing a bag of marijuana when Haste opened fire.

Graham's family, who gave a far different account, said that the teenager had not committed any crime or run when Haste fatally shot him in front of his 6-year-old brother and his grandmother.

The police then interrogated the grandmother for seven hours without providing access to a lawyer, and assaulted Graham's mother at the precinct, the family says.

After Bronx grand jury declined to prosecute Haste for manslaughter in 2013, the Graham family pinned their hopes on a federal prosecution and civil litigation.

New York City paid $3.9 million to settle the family's civil claims, and Bharara's office announced the start criminal investigation in the fall of 2014.

Hearing no update on that investigation, Graham's family held a vigil outside his office on the fourth anniversary of his death.

For Malcolm, learning that no grand jury would be empanelled in the case felt like "another slap in the face."

Ramarley's father, Franclot Graham, echoed what many other family members and civil rights activists said outside of Bharara's office on Tuesday.

"Same as usual, black lives do not matter," he said.

The sentiment showed that powerful influence of the Black Lives Matter movement, whose nationwide protests a little more than a year ago started a dialogue on police shootings of unarmed black men.

Graham's father said that his son's case shows, "A cop's word is always the word that will be taken."

Bharara's office blamed "insufficient evidence to meet the high burden of proof" under the civil rights statute.

"To prove a violation of the federal criminal civil rights statute, prosecutors must establish, beyond a reasonable doubt, that a law enforcement officer willfully deprived an individual of a constitutional right, meaning that the officer acted with the deliberate and specific intent to do something the law forbids," he said. "This is the highest standard of intent imposed by law, and is different from and higher than the intent standard under the relevant state statutes. Neither accident, mistake, fear, negligence nor bad judgment is sufficient to establish a federal criminal civil rights violation."

The New York Civil Liberties Union's executive director Donna Lieberman called the teenage Graham an example of the "collateral damage of our failed broken window's policing strategy."

Pioneered in the early 1980s, the so-called "broken windows" theory of criminology calls for a harsh clampdown on minor offenses to signal a close watch on areas with heavy crime.

Critics of the theory point out its statistical correlation to racial profiling and heavy punishment for predominantly black and Latino men for petty offenses.

New York City Police Commissioner Bill Bratton was one of its early proponents.

The family's attorney Royce Russell said that the U.S. Attorney's office's decision forecloses the possibility of criminal prosecution, but that he would continue to push for the officers connected with Graham's killing to be fired.

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