Editor's Note: On January 30, the de Blasio administration announced that it had reached a settlement in the Floyd v. City of New York stop-and-frisk litigation. Many reformers are cautiously hopeful as the agreement puts the NYPD under court supervision for the next three years as court-ordered changes are carried out. The settlement also came just days before the second anniversary of the police killing of 18-year-old Ramarley Graham in the northern Bronx. This brazen shooting further catalyzed a citywide movement to end stop-an-frisk and reform the NYPD that was already gaining traction. However, while at least modest reforms are underway at the NYPD, the fact that Graham's killers remain untried and unpunished is a reminder of how far we still have to go as the young man's mother reminds us in this article.
My son Ramarley Graham was born born April 12, 1993 and at the age of 18 he was murdered on February 2, 2012 by NYPD Richard Haste badge number 20875 of the 47th Precinct, Bronx, New York when he and his members of the Street Narcotics Unit (SNU) racially profiled Ramarley when they followed him home.
Ramarley was murdered in cold blood in the bathroom of his own home in front of his grandmother and then 6-year-old brother. Haste and his SNU were surveilling a bodega on the corner of 228th street and White Plains Road when they saw Ramarley and two of his friends walking to Ramarley’s home. Ramarley stopped to greet friends with a common gesture of fist pumping and shoulder bumping and continued to walk home when he adjusted his pants and the officers claimed they saw the butt of a gun. After entering the home, he went upstairs and got undressed and was in a conversation with his grandmother Patricia Hartley (who is my mother) when they both heard loud noises.
The noises were the officers furiously kicking the front door of the house trying to gain entrance. When their numerous attempts failed, they forced the tenant on the ground floor to let them in at gunpoint. One officer then ran through the house of the ground floor and unlocked the front door to let his fellow officers in. This was all caught on the surveillance camera that was on the house. Before Ramarley’s grandmother got to the apartment door to see what the noise was about, the door was kicked in without any warning by officers or a search warrant.
What transpired after that was described by Ramarley's grandmother and younger brother. They testified that the door to my apartment was kicked in by Haste. After he saw Ramarley and his grandmother in the hallway of the apartment, he fired the fatal bullet that struck Ramarley in his heart and killed him. After the shot was fired, the grandmother asked Haste why he shot her grandson and was assaulted by Haste and the other two officers who entered the apartment with him. Their claim that Ramarley was carrying a gun turned out to be baseless. Ramarley's grandmother (who is also my mother) was then removed from the apartment and taken to the 47th precinct where she was held for more than seven hours and interrogated without an attorney present.
I received a phone call on my way home from work from the neighbor on the ground floor that there were many police officers in the back yard. I didn’t pay too much attention to his statement because I wasn’t expecting anything to happen. After numerous unsuccessful attempts to reach the tenant who had called me, I still was not told about what had transpired. Finally I made it home and was prohibited to enter the home because of the commotion. After identifying myself to one of the officers I was then told that I needed to go to the 47th Precinct headquarters where I was accompanied by an officer.
At the precinct, I was escorted upstairs and was told to sit in the hallway on a bench and was still not told what had happened to my child. I overheard a conversation of the officer who brought me to the precinct telling another officer he had just came from the homicide. That is when I froze because that homicide was the death of my son.
My Mother's Interrogation
I then saw an officer escorting my mother to an area where they do interrogation and that’s when she confirmed what I overheard from the officers. I then informed them that they cannot interrogate her without an attorney present and I was ignored. A couple hours had passed and from phone conversations with my attorney Jeff Emden and the NYPD Captain the police still did not adhere to my plea of releasing my mother. My attorney showed up along with family members and members of the community where we were laughed at and jeered. She was eventually released after State Assemblymember Eric Stephenson showed up and made noise. After the long ordeal, we were then slapped in the face when I tried to locate my son’s remains after three days and could not because he was labeled under an assumed name. With help from Assemblymen Carl Hastie, we were able to locate him and prepare his funeral. Ramarley was buried on Saturday February 18, 2012.
We started 18 rallies for 18 consecutive weeks to commemorate the 18 years Ramarley was with us. We had many people from near and far and made a database with thousands of names of people who are interested in hearing and wanting to be a part of our fight for justice for my son. Within the four months after the death of Ramarley, the grand jury came down with an indictment on Richard Haste and he was charged with Manslaughter 1 and 2. He appeared in court on June 14t and was granted a $50,000 bond. The indictment was later thrown out on May 15, 2013 on a technicality by Judge Stephen Barrett who believed that a statement in the prosecutors report to the grand jury was misleading. The case was sent back to a second grand jury and they decided not to indict Richard Haste. We are now urging the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) to step in and not just to review the case but to accept it and prosecute Richard Haste for the murder of my son Ramarley Graham.
Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former Police Commissioner Ray Kelly left a bad taste in the mouth of the people of our community. They showed no remorse for the murder of my son by one of their police officers who is paid to serve and protect the community.
People of color continue to be terrorized, brutalized and some cases murdered with impunity by police officers. Members of the community have complained repeatedly about how they are being treated by cops. With Mayor Blasio and Police Commissioner Bratton, we can only hope that they do the right thing in repairing the distrust that people have in the NYPD and the justice system.
What Needs to Be Done
However, the curtailing of the stop-and-frisk is not enough. It's a reform that will not solve the problem. This practice needs to be ended totally. Judge Scheindlin’s said it best that “stop and frisk was unconstitutional”. I do agree that there should be oversight of the NYPD. We also need to have a special prosecutor to oversee shootings that involve police officers and not have district attorneys prosecute police officers because they work too closely with these officers to make their cases in court.
Why Stop-and-Frisk Must End (June 2012 Special Issue)