The family and friends of an unarmed black teen shot to death in front of his grandmother and 6-year-old brother by a white police officer demanded the officer’s badge Thursday and argued that if the races had been reversed, justice would be swifter.
This week, federal prosecutors declined to file federal civil rights charges against Officer Richard Haste in the 2012 death of 18-year-old Ramarley Graham. The decision ended the possibility of criminal charges for Haste, who was indicted earlier on a state manslaughter charge that a judge dismissed, saying prosecutors had improperly instructed grand jurors. Another grand jury then declined to indict Haste, who said he fired at Graham because he thought Graham would shoot him.
The police department hit Haste with internal charges. Disciplinary proceedings are now moving forward now that criminal proceedings are completed, which is standard procedure.
Haste was reassigned to the fleet services division and remains stripped of his gun and badge. He could request an internal trial and faces being fired, though Commissioner William Bratton has the ultimate say.
On Thursday, the frustration by Graham’s family was palpable — they believe Haste, his supervisor that day and any other officer involved should already be fired.
“We are tired,” said Constance Malcolm, Graham’s mother. “It’s four years, and I still don’t have an answer for why my son is dead.”
There’s also a larger problem at hand, they said. City Councilman Andy King said he is pressing Mayor Bill de Blasio and his colleagues for more candid discussion of how the black community is policed in New York, but he’s not getting anywhere fast enough and he’s tired of what he sees as a double standard.
“If this had been a black officer knocking down the door to a house of a white person and shoot a white teenager, see what kind of conversation we’d be having today,” he said.
City Councilman Charles Barron said so much disappointment within the black community could turn the movement from peaceful to violent.
“We’re not going to take this lying down,” he said. “Don’t blame me when people start saying, ‘An eye for an eye.'”
Haste’s lawyer Stuart London said that his client was gratified he wasn’t facing civil rights charges but that “there never were any winners in this case.”
And his union echoed the sentiment.
“The officer was working to combat the scourge of guns and drugs in the community,” said Patrick J. Lynch, head of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association. “The good-faith effort to combat those ills brought us to this tragedy. We extend our sympathies to the family.”
Graham’s family settled with the city in January 2015 for $3.9 million.
SOURCE: The Associated Press, Colleen Long