The family of Ramarley Graham, shot dead in his home by a cop who thought he was armed, is calling on the Justice Department to open an official probe in the February 2012 shooting.
After a series of failed grand jury actions in state court and an inquiry opened by the U.S. Attorney’s office in the Southern District, the case against NYPD Officer Richard Haste is stagnant, the family’s lawyer, Royce Russell, said at a rally outside Manhattan Federal Court Wednesday.
Graham was shot and killed after being chased by Haste and other officers to his Bronx apartment where he tried to flush marijuana down a toilet. Haste has said he believed Graham was armed at the time. No weapon was recovered.
The incident sparked a widespread debate about gun violence and the NYPD’s policy of stop and frisk. Graham’s grandmother and younger brother were home at the time. A Bronx grand jury voted to indict Haste on June 12, 2012, said Steven Reed, a spokesman for the Bronx district attorney. That indictment was dismissed by a Bronx state court judge on May 5, 2013, after he ruled that prosecutors gave incorrect instructions to the the grand jury. A second grand jury voted to not indict Haste in August, Reed said.
There was “an exhaustive” investigation, he said, adding that the DA has been cooperating with the justice department.
“The case was investigated,” he said. “It was presented and ulitmately the grand jury chose to not indict.”
In August, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York said there would be a review of “all of the available evidence… including the evidence collected during the state’s investigation, to determine whether there were any violations of the federal criminal civil rights laws.” That review is still ongoing, said Jennifer Queliz, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Southern District. But it’s not enough for Graham’s family, said his mother, Constance Malcolm.
“Justice for Ramarley is justice for all: this is going to set an example that you can’t just kill a black unarmed kid and get away with it,” she said. “He’s not here. He should have been here. All because of one person’s carelessness.”
An attorney for Haste did not return a phone or e-mail request for comment.
Last month the New York State Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder requesting an investigation to determine whether the “evidence justifies the presentment of charges before a federal grand jury.”
The justice department confirmed it they received and is reviewing that letter, said spokeswoman Dena Iverson.
Graham would have turned 21 last Saturday, said Malcolm. Instead of a birthday party, she said, the family spent the day at the cemetery.
Russell, the family’s attorney, said that the DOJ has not communicated any “timetable” for their investigation. Russell said he a civil suit in currently in the Southern District of New York federal court.
“I believe that the wheels of justice spin slowly, but they have to move,” he said. “And right now we see no movement.”
Donna Lieberman, New York Civil Liberties executive director, said it is “shameful” that the justice department has not opened a full investigation.
“We can’t allow Ramarley’s death to remain the collateral damage of a stop and frisk and marijuana crusade gone awry,” she said. “It has to mean clear changes. And his case… if ever there was a case that they should be acting on and that should become a vehicle for the Dept. of Justice to demand particular changes, this is it.”
The NYPD did not return a request for comment in time for deadline Wednesday.