Black, Latino & Asian caucuses of NYS Legislature and NYC Council request DOJ consider convening grand jury, national civil rights group ColorofChange launches nationwide petition effort to members.
New York, NY – Just days after Ramarley Graham would have celebrated his 21st birthday, family members of Graham were joined by elected officials and civil rights groups to demand that the U.S. Department of Justice conduct a formal and thorough investigation into his shooting death by the NYPD. Graham, an 18-year-old Bronx resident, was shot and killed by NYPD Officer Richard Haste in the bathroom of his family’s home in front of his grandmother and 6-year-old brother after Haste unlawfully busted into the house in February 2012. After the Office of the Bronx District Attorney failed to indict, the U.S. Department of Justice indicated it was reviewing the case, but there have been no indications that it has opened a full investigation.
“I was unable to celebrate Ramarley’s 21st birthday last Saturday or his last two birthdays, and instead have been forced to memorialize his life,” said Constance Malcolm, the mother of Ramarley Graham. “All I want is justice for the murder of my son and the Department of Justice is truly the only level of our justice system left that can provide accountability for the violation of Ramarley’s civil rights. They must act and provide a sense of basic equality that demonstrates our country equally respects the rights and lives of young men of color.”
The chairs and members of the New York State Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic & Asian Legislative Caucus and the New York City Council Black, Latino & Asian Caucus stood with the family to announce that they had sent letters to Attorney General Eric Holder requesting an official investigation by the Department of Justice into the death of Ramarley Graham.
“The fact that there has not been a thorough and exhaustive investigation into the death of Ramarley Graham compounds the tragedy this family has faced,” said Assemblyman Karim Camara, chair of the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic & Asian Legislative Caucus. “From an alleged gun that was never discovered to the callous manner in which this family alleges they were treated by NYPD–there are too many unanswered questions. Not only must we ensure the circumstances surrounding his tragic death are not forgotten, but we must also send a strong message to young men of color that we value their lives and we will fight to protect their civil rights. It is my hope that the Department of Justice acts promptly as it is abundantly clear that this case necessitates further investigation.”
“As we reflect on the young life of Ramarley Graham, who would have celebrated his 21th birthday this past Saturday, we can only speculate what contributions he would have made to society. We can only reflect on a young life that will never know a full life. We ask the question: Will there be justice for the unarmed teenager shot by police? We’re asking the Justice Department to evaluate the case of Officer Richard Haste vs. Ramarley Graham so that justice and fairness can be served,” said 12th District Council Member Andy King, co-chair of the City Council’s Black, Latino and Asian Caucus.
National civil rights organization ColorofChange – the nation’s largest civil rights online advocacy organization that has mobilized Black Americans across the country on various racial and social justice issues – announced that it launched a nationwide petition demanding that the U.S. Department of Justice conduct a thorough investigation and bring charges against NYPD officer Richard Haste, who shot and killed Graham.
“The petitions signed by ColorOfChange members represent the voices and stories of thousands of everyday people who want to trust our law enforcement officials, and who want to believe that justice will be served regardless of the color of one’s skin or the amount of money in one’s pocket,” said Rashad Robinson, Executive Director of ColorOfChange.org. “Ramarley’s family, Bronx community and supporters across the city have organized for more than two years to ensure that the local officials are fairly and thoroughly investigating the killing of an unarmed 18-year-old. The Department of Justice has a duty to protect our community against violent policing, racial profiling and to make sure that the justice system is working to equally protect Black youth, especially when local and state officials fail to do so.”
Four months after the 2012 shooting, a Bronx grand jury indicted Haste on two counts of manslaughter; the first indictment of an NYPD officer for killing a civilian since 2007. But in May 2013, Judge Steven Barrett dismissed the indictment due to a technical error made by an assistant district attorney. A second grand jury decided not to re-indict Haste, but the U.S. Justice Department indicated it was reviewing the case.
“The U.S. justice system must not continue to utterly fail the families of those who have unjustly lost their lives to the NYPD,” said Loyda Colon, Co-Director of Justice Committee. “Ramarley Graham, Sean Bell and Noel Polanco are just a few of those who have been killed by the NYPD without any justification and despite being unarmed. The U.S. Department of Justice has a choice to make: it can fail to provide equal justice or it can send a message to the nation that the justice system values the lives of young people of color by bringing federal civil rights charges against officers responsible for the killing of Ramarley Graham.”
The family was also joined in support by State Senators Adriano Espaillat, Ruth Hassell-Thompson and Bill Perkins, Assembly Members Walter T. Mosley, Félix Ortiz, Keith L.T. Wright, and New York City Council Black, Latino & Asian Caucus co-chair Rosie Mendez, Council Member Jumaane Williams, and Pastor Que English.
“We’re here today because, more than two years after Ramarley Graham was killed, New York has failed to provide any meaningful accountability,” said New York Civil Liberties Executive Director Donna Lieberman. “When a child gets killed by a police officer in the bathroom of his family’s house, something has gone terribly wrong. And yet no one has provided any answers to explain how this tragedy occurred, or to prescribe remedies to ensure that no family ever has to suffer again in the way that the Graham family has. If New York City and New York State refuse to investigate, then that means it’s time for the Department of Justice to do so. We’re here talking about a child’s life. The stakes are too high to allow this tragedy to go unanswered.”
The renewed push comes just months after the two year anniversary of Ramarley’s death, when the family was joined by 1199SEIU President George Gresham, community supporters, and the family members of several New Yorkers killed by NYPD officers over the past 20 years at a memorial service. Graham’s mother, Constance, is a member of 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, which has supported the family’s struggle for justice.
“There is no way to ever fill the deep void left by the loss of a child. But it is our strong hope that the Department of Justice fully investigates the killing of Ramarley Graham so that justice can be served and we can prevent these types of deplorable shootings in the future,” said George Gresham, President of 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, the largest union in New York and the largest healthcare union in the nation. “The number of young people of color killed with impunity in this country is an ongoing moral outrage. We will continue to organize with Ramarley’s family and our allies to put an end to these killings, advance policies that will safeguard the lives of our youth, and demand that justice be done.”
Ramarley Graham would have turned 21 on April 12, 2014.
by Rejoice Magazine Staff