Newly Released NYPD Files from Killing of Ramarley Graham Ordered Released by Judge Reveal Fabricated Account That Sought to Justify Killing
Documents show officers lied in immediate aftermath during investigation, yet department apparently never held anyone accountable for lies that even NYPD brass repeated publicly
Records are first in trove of files that judge ordered city to release following lawsuit against NYPD for refusing to comply with FOIL request by Graham’s family, supporting organizations
New York, NY – NYPD files related to the killing of Ramarley Graham in 2012, just newly released by judicial order in a lawsuit against the city, show that NYPD officers lied in the investigation and official reports about the incident. Crime Scene Unit (CSU) documents indicate that a fabricated account was advanced about what occurred in the lead up to Graham being shot and killed. The documents present a false narrative that indicates NYPD personnel was trying to justify their actions in the immediate aftermath of the killing.
The documents claim that Ramarley Graham was “running” when surveillance camera video footage clearly shows that he was walking – it is a falsehood that the NYPD never retracted or corrected. The CSU records also claim that there was “a struggle” between Graham and then-NYPD officer Richard Haste before the killing, something that never happened. In the immediate aftermath of the killing in 2012, the NYPD made such a claim to the media but then retracted after it became clear that Graham’s grandmother would contradict such an assertion as a witness to the killing. A report on the gun used by then-Officer Haste to kill Ramarley includes a notation that the gun was “poss[ibly] touched by [Graham]” and requesting DNA testing, indicating an effort to even further advance the false narrative that a struggle occurred before the killing.
The misrepresentations of the incident during its immediate investigation is serious misconduct that should have resulted in disciplinary charges and the most serious discipline – NYPD policy makes clear that “intentionally making a false official statement regarding a material matter will result in dismissal from the department, absent exceptional circumstances.” Yet, it does not appear that any NYPD officers faced charges or were held accountable for false statements made regarding the killing of Ramarley Graham.
“The NYPD’s scandalous and failed disciplinary system and the attempt to conceal misconduct – like we’ve seen exposed by the past weeks’ media investigations and I’ve experienced related to the murder of my son – are corruption of the worst kind,” said Constance Malcolm, the mother of Ramarley Graham. “The initial documents that the NYPD has been forced by a judge to turn over to me, related to Ramarley’s killing, show that officers attempted to cover-up the killing of my son by justifying their behavior with lies on official reports. The fact that more than 6 years later, the NYPD still hasn't charged any of the officers responsible for these lies is consistent with the systemic pattern the department has in failing to hold officers accountable for lying. Supreme Court Justice Manuel Mendez should now have received additional records from the NYPD to conduct a review to determine what else should be released to my family. Requiring full transparency of the NYPD is critical, because the department has consistently demonstrated that it will seek to conceal misconduct so the public is left without information about how widespread their failure to hold officers accountable is. As we continue to review additional information that the NYPD is court-ordered to release, there will probably be more evidence of police misconduct and cover-ups related to the killing of Ramarley that will confirm what my family has been saying for years.”
The NYPD documents can be found here: bit.ly/2pIOhJT
Media investigations and reporting over the past several weeks have revealed the dysfunction in the NYPD’s disciplinary system. Significant attention has been focused on the lack of accountability and discipline for officers who lie or fabricate accounts in BuzzFeed, the New York Daily News and New York Times.
The files that Graham’s family received stem from an extensive Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request from September 2016 that the NYPD refused to comply with, forcing the family and supporting organizations to file a state lawsuit to force compliance. The FOIL – filed by civil rights attorney Gideon Oliver on behalf of Ms. Malcolm, Communities United for Police Reform and Justice Committee – sought a volume of routine police records and correspondence related to the killing of Graham that could shed light on what occurred and the extent of misconduct.
“Among other things, recently disclosed CSU records show that, in the immediate aftermath of the shooting, NYPD officers who were there reported a fabricated ‘struggle’ in the hallway or bathroom between Haste and Ramarley, when there was no struggle,” said civil rights attorney Gideon Oliver. “Police repeated the lie to the press. Then-NYPD Commissioner Kelly knew that the reports of a “struggle" memorialized in official NYPD records were fabricated as early as the next day - yet no police were publicly admonished, charged, disciplined, or prosecuted around fabricating evidence. When NYPD brass and prosecutors allow police fabrication about material facts to slide in a high–profile case like this one, they reaffirm that police can lie and fabricate evidence with impunity, and they encourage police to do so.”
Some of the records requested in the FOIL follow previous appeals for information that Graham’s family had made to Mayor de Blasio and the NYPD Commissioner in written correspondence. Graham’s family sent repeated letters and requests to the de Blasio administration (here, here and here) and even hand-delivered them to City Hall, but received no responses from the mayor or police commissioner.
The NYPD had been refusing to fully comply with the FOIL request that could provide the family and public with essential information on Ramarley’s killing and NYPD misconduct, which led to Graham’s family and supporters filing a lawsuit in April 2017 to force the NYPD’s compliance with state law.
In December 2017, New York State Supreme Court Justice Manuel Mendez, issued a decision that criticized the NYPD’s concealment and delayed discipline, ordering the NYPD to release many of the documents related to the tragedy to the family. Another cache of documents has been turned over to the judge directly for him to conduct an “in-camera review” to determine whether to release those as part of the FOIL request.
“It’s critical that the NYPD be forced to release documents that the public should have access to and that can help Ramarley Graham’s family get answers,” said Mark Winston Griffith, a spokesperson for Communities United for Police Reform and executive director of Brooklyn Movement Center. “The NYPD is allergic to transparency and has a broken, dysfunctional disciplinary system. From what we’ve seen of the initial documents, there was serious misconduct in what appears to be an attempted years-long cover-up of Ramarley Graham’s killing. No one has been held accountable for that misconduct and we expect to find more evidence of serious police misconduct related to the NYPD killing of Ramarley Graham as we continue to go through the records.”
Justice Committee Co-Director Loyda Colon stated: “The way Ramarley Graham and other New York City families are treated by Mayor de Blasio's administration after the NYPD kills their loved ones is despicable. No grieving family should be shunned and forced to file FOIL requests in order to get answers. For over six years, the family of Ramarley Graham has shouted non-stop about the NYPD lies and cover-up related to the murder of 18-year-old Ramarley. Their beliefs were proven true after hearing NYPD testimony in the departmental trial of former NYPD officer Richard Haste and now finding out that NYPD officers reported a fake ‘struggle’ in official NYPD documents, to attempt to justify killing an unarmed teenager in his home.”
In 2012, unarmed 18-year-old Ramarley Graham was shot and killed in front of his grandmother and 6-year-old brother by NYPD Officer Richard Haste. Haste and several other NYPD officers, including Sergeant Scott Morris and Officer John McLoughlin, busted into the family's Bronx home without a warrant, killed Ramarley and engaged in misconduct and abuses of his family and other civilians. Haste was allowed to resign from the NYPD in March 2017, after he and other officers accrued tens of thousands of dollars in increased earnings over the five years since killing Ramarley. Nearly six years after the killing, Morris and McLoughlin settled their own disciplinary cases, with Morris suspended for 30 days before resigning and McLoughlin losing 45 vacation days and being placed on “dismissal probation” for a year. Morris faced a charge of failure to supervise and McLoughlin was accused of using poor tactics. No officers seemingly faced any charges for lying during the investigation.
There were multiple officers involved in the unlawful entry to the family’s home, threatening, assaulting and mistreating Ramarley’s family members after the killing, unlawfully leaking information unauthorized for public release, and disseminating false information about the incident. There was extensive misconduct by other NYPD employees in the aftermath of Graham’s killing, but the city had refused to release any information about the extent of activities and officers involved.
About Communities United for Police Reform
Communities United for Police Reform (CPR) is an unprecedented campaign to end discriminatory policing practices in New York, and to build a lasting movement that promotes public safety and policing practices based on cooperation and respect– not discriminatory targeting and harassment.
CPR brings together a movement of community members, lawyers, researchers and activists to work for change. The partners in this campaign come from all 5 boroughs, from all walks of life and represent many of those unfairly targeted the most by the NYPD. CPR is fighting for reforms that will promote community safety while ensuring that the NYPD protects and serves all New Yorkers.Topics: Ramarley Graham