After Preet Bharara’s Failure, Ramarley Graham’s Family & Supporters Demand Accountability and Justice from Mayor de Blasio, Bratton with Call to Fire Officers
Two days after U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara announced he would not pursue charges against the officers responsible for killing Ramarley Graham, Graham’s parents and supporters turned their attention to Mayor de Blasio and NYPD Commissioner Bratton, demanding they fire all the officers involved in the killing and subsequent treatment of the family and incident.
None of the officers responsible for busting into Ramarley’s home without legal justification, killing him, threatening, assaulting and mistreating his family members after his killing, and giving false information about the events have been held accountable by the NYPD. Officer Richard Haste, who shot and killed Graham, is still employed by the NYPD and has received multiple salary increases of nearly $25,000 over the four years since he killed Graham.
“After four years, there has been no justice or accountability – NYPD officers murdered our son in his home,” said Constance Malcolm and Franclot Graham, the parents of Ramarley Graham. “He was doing nothing wrong, he should have been safe at home. NYPD busted in without a warrant and then abused and intimidated members of our family while releasing misleading and inaccurate information about the killing. The criminal justice system on the local and federal levels have failed to demonstrate a commitment to valuing and protecting Black lives. Mayor de Blasio and Commissioner Bratton are part of this injustice and devaluing of Ramarley’s life as long as they allow these officers to continue receiving paychecks as NYPD employees.
“We are tired of hearing the de Blasio administration respond to the murder of our son and continued injustice with PR responses about training and community policing,” continued Malcolm and Graham. “If this administration is truly committed to demonstrating that Black Lives Matter and resolving issues of police abuse, they can only do that by taking action and being serious about holding officers accountable. There’s no excuse that holds any weight – they should fire Officer Haste, Sergeant Scott Morris, and all officers responsible for murdering Ramarley, the abusive treatment of our family, and the attempted cover up.”
As part of the family’s demands, national civil rights organization, ColorOfChange, launched a petition aimed at Mayor de Blasio.
On the February 2nd fourth anniversary of Ramarley’s killing this year, his parents hand-delivered a letter to City Hall calling for the firing of all the officers involved. Commissioner Bratton has previously asserted that the Justice Department requested the NYPD hold off on its disciplinary process for the officers. However, the Office of U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara denied that request ever occurred in its meeting with the family, the Justice Committee and Communities United for Police Reform on Tuesday, March 8. History also demonstrates that such a restriction on the NYPD taking disciplinary action is not based on anything outside of the city’s power. After the 1994 police killing of Anthony Baez, the officer who killed him was dismissed from the NYPD after being acquitted in state court of killing Baez and before he was indicted by the federal Department of Justice.
The unarmed 18-year-old Ramarley Graham was killed by NYPD Officer Richard Haste in front of his grandmother and 6-year-old brother after officers unlawfully busted into their home without a warrant or legal justification on February 2, 2012. Immediately after shooting Graham, Officer Haste cursed and threatened to shoot his grandmother. She was then separated from her six-year-old grandson who had just witnessed his brother being killed, and questioned for seven hours while refused access to a family legal representative. When Ramarley’s mother arrived at the precinct to ask what had happened to her son and find her grandmother, she was assaulted by officers. The City “misplaced” Ramarley’s body for four days after he was killed.
A Bronx grand jury indicted Haste on two counts of manslaughter in May 2013, but Judge Steven Barrett dismissed the indictment due to a prosecutorial error made by the Office of Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson. On August 8, 2013, a second grand jury decided not to re-indict Haste, but the U.S. Justice Department indicated it was reviewing the case. The office of U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara would not acknowledge it was fully investigating the killing until September 2014, after Ramarley’s parents – with support from New Yorkers from across the city – delivered over 33,000 petitions to Bharara and the Justice Department demanding a full investigation.
Bharara’s decision to not act – announced on Tuesday, March 8 – came four years after Ramarley was killed and over two years since his office began reviewing the case. The meeting where he revealed the news to Graham’s family came only after Ramarley’s parents and supporters held an all-night vigil on the steps outside of Bharara’s Manhattan office to demand justice.
The killing of Ramarley Graham has been part of calls for justice from around the country amongst the police killings of Black and Latino civilians. In April 2014, 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 sent letters to Attorney General Eric Holder requesting an official investigation by the Department of Justice into the death of Ramarley Graham.
Constance Malcolm – the mother of Ramarley – was one of several family members of New Yorkers killed by police, who led advocacy efforts that moved Governor Cuomo to issue an executive order to authorize a special prosecutor for police killings of civilians. The executive order is not retroactive, and the families’ efforts were intended to advance justice for New Yorkers who may face similarly tragic circumstances in the future.
Gwen Carr, the mother of Eric Garner, said: “The way the DOJ has handled Ramarley's case is horrible. We can't let these officers continue to murder our children and get away with it with no accountability. When they aren't held responsible and there's no accountability, it's as if they're legalized killers. The Mayor and Commissioner should step in immediately and fire all officers responsible for killing Ramarley Graham, as well as the officers responsible for abusing his family and obscuring the investigation.”
Valerie Bell, the mother of Sean Bell, who was killed by the NYPD in 2006, stated: “The Department of Justice’s decision to not prosecute for the killing of Ramarley Graham opens up a painful wound for me and my family. Once again, the D.O.J has sent the message that police are above the law and that the law is not on our side. I stand with Ramarley’s family to call on Mayor de Blasio and Commissioner Bratton to fire all officers responsible for killing Ramarley, abusing his family and hiding the truth about the killing. Firing the officers won’t amount to justice but at least they won’t be able to carry a badge and gun.”
Justice Committee Co-Director Loyda Colon said: “Based on what we learned in our meeting with US Attorney Preet Bharara Tuesday, it appears the Commissioner is so unwilling to take swift action to hold officers who unjustly kill New Yorkers accountable that he has resorted to deceiving the City Council. By not forcing Bratton to bring charges against these officers, Mayor de Blasio has been complicit in the deceit. We are demanding in the strongest terms that Mayor de Blasio and Commissioner Bratton immediately fire all officers responsible for Graham’s death, all those who assaulted his mother, denied Ramarley’s grandmother access to her attorney, and all those who impeded or tampered with the investigation.”
Juan Cartagena, President and General Counsel of LatinoJustice PRLDEF stated: “Ramarely Graham cannot be allowed to die in vain. Our police must be held accountable and not just for this killing but for the false statements they eventually retracted. If our local courts and prosecutors fail to hold them accountable and if our federal authorities refuse to act, then the NYPD must take action now. There have to be consequences for these acts in order to show that Black lives have value.”
Rashad Robinson, executive director of ColorOfChange said: “Mayor de Blasio has pledged to reform the NYPD. He and his administration must demonstrate their commitment to this promise by firing Officer Richard Haste and all officers involved in the killing of Ramarley Graham. Whether it be Ramarley, Amadou Diallo, Sean Bell, Eric Garner or far too many others, NYPD officers have too often been allowed to kill Black people without consequence. The Mayor and the city have an opportunity to meet their rhetoric with action and move beyond the vision for reform to executing real accountability. The people are watching.”
Rev. Chloe Breyer, Interfaith Center of New York Executive Director, stated: “The Interfaith Center of New York stands with the Graham family in expressing our deep disappointment that the US Department of Justice has failed to pursue legal action against the officers responsible for the killing of Ramarley Graham. We join with other New Yorkers in calling on our Mayor and Police Commissioner to hold the officers accountable for their actions by relieving them of their responsibilities with the police force immediately. Law enforcement that does not treat members of racial and religious minorities with sufficient dignity and equality diminishes the possibility of real security for everyone in our shared city.”
Dante Barry, Executive Director of Million Hoodies Movement for Justice, stated: “We are disappointed by the Department of Justice's decision to not pursue legal action for the death of Ramarley Graham. This is another episode of justice denied for our communities and routine disregard for Black life. We demand the immediate firing of Officer Richard Haste and all NYPD officers responsible for Ramarley's death.”
Donna Lieberman, executive director of NYCLU, said: “Ramarley Graham deserves justice, and New Yorkers deserve a criminal justice system they can trust. The NYPD must hold those involved in his death accountable.”
Leo Ferguson of Jews for Racial & Economic Justice stated: “The failure of the US Attorney to seek justice in the case once again shows us that in our criminal justice system, Black lives are disposable. The disparity between the high bar set for the prosecution of even the most lethally irresponsible police officers, and the indiscriminate net of policing and prosecution cast over low-income people of color in New York has never been more clear. The inequity is blinding. But there can still be a measure of justice. Jews for Racial & Economic Justice joins the Graham family in demanding that Richard Haste and all the officers involved in the killing of Ramarley Graham, and in the improper handling of the case be fired immediately. There is still time for Mayor de Blasio to live up to his responsibilities to the citizens of New York and to the promises he made in his campaign. Hold the police to a higher standard and keep all of us safe from dangerous killers like Richard Haste. Fire the officers today.”
Jean Rice, Picture the Homeless Leader and Board Member, said: “What is troubling to me is the Graham family has had to struggle through two decisions of not two indictments the NYPD for the murder of a Black youth. The DOJ had to investigate a case on what DA Johnson (who is now a judge) presented to them which from the information I have was either tainted or flawed. It is troubling to members of Picture the Homeless and communities of color that in a city that prides itself on being able to indict a ham sandwich that the people’s servants could not obtain a “true bill” in this incident that amounted to a legal lynching. Black Lives Matter.”
Cathy Dang, Executive Director of CAAAV, stated: “CAAAV Organizing Asian Communities has showed up in solidarity for the parents of Ramarley Graham and the Justice Committee in their fight for justice over the years. All officers who use excessive and deadly force need to be held accountable. We are outraged and disappointed by Preet Bharara's and the Obama administration's failure to uphold equal justice. We want our Mayor and Commissioner Bratton to fire all officers responsible.”