New York, N.Y. – Over a year after the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) said it was undertaking a “review” of the fatal police shooting of unarmed 18-year-old Ramarley Graham, his mother Constance Malcolm and supporters demanded that Attorney General Eric Holder and U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara open a full federal investigation, convene a grand jury and meet with the family. Malcolm and New Yorkers from across the city delivered over 33,000 petitions to the Justice Department, demanding a full investigation from Holder and Bharara. Graham was shot and killed by NYPD officer Richard Haste in front of his grandmother and 6-year-old brother in the bathroom of his family’s Bronx home after Haste busted inside without a warrant in February 2012.
“My son was unarmed and murdered by a NYPD officer who busted into our home with no warrant and shot him in front of his 6-year-old brother and grandmother,” said Constance Malcom, the mother of Ramarley Graham. “If that’s not a blatant violation of civil rights, then the Justice Department might as well close its civil rights division because it is allowing open season on our communities. President Obama, Attorney General Holder and Preet Bharara must decide whether they are going to uphold justice and the civil rights of people of color in this country and show that our lives are valued equally by the justice system. I’m not asking for favors, simply blind justice.”
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 on August 8, 2013, but the U.S. Justice Department indicated it would review the case. Over a year later, Graham’s family has received no indication that DOJ has moved from a “review” of the case to a full investigation that could lead to the convening of a grand jury and indictments of officers involved.
“I have long advocated for the DOJ to open a full investigation into the horrible tragedy and abject injustice of Ramarley Graham, and these petition signatures support the urgent action New Yorkers believe needs to take place,” said Council Member Jumaane D. Williams (D-Brooklyn), Deputy Leader and Co-Chair of the Task Force to Combat Gun Violence. “If the federal government wants to prove that black and brown men’s lives are meaningful, then President Obama, Attorney General Holder, and US attorney Preet Bharara must push this full investigation forward.”
Loyda Colon, Justice Committee Co-Director stated: “Ramarley’s death at the hands of NYPD Officer Richard Haste is part of a pattern that we must put an end to now. When the NYPD’s orientation is that entire communities are criminal, when there’s no accountability for officers who unjustly take the lives of our loved ones, it creates a culture in which these killings can continue. The DOJ must convene a grand jury to indict Haste on civil rights charges. This will not only be a step toward justice for Ramarley’s family, it will send a message that the lives of Black and brown youth matter and that police brutality will not be tolerated any longer.”
The action comes as police departments across the country face increasing scrutiny for the killings of unarmed civilians. Last week, unarmed Michael Brown was shot multiple times and killed by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. Brown’s death has set off unrest in the Midwestern city, sparking severe criticism of the nearly all-white police department’s treatment of the majority Black community. 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, including the murders of Michael Brown and Eric Garner – launched a petition demanding a thorough investigation and federal charges against NYPD officer Haste in April 2014. Four months later, the petition has been signed by over 33,000.
“More than 33,000 ColorOfChange members have demanded the DOJ take over Ramarley Graham’s case, conduct a thorough investigation and finally bring his killer to justice,” said ColorOfChange Executive Director Rashad Robinson. “The DOJ has a duty to protect our community against racial profiling and deadly police violence, especially when local or state prosecutors fail to do so. All too often there is no accountability for the officers kill our loved ones. They walk free, while families and communities are left to mourn. In light of the epidemic of racial profiling and police brutality across the country, we are once again calling on the DOJ to send a clear message that the justice system values the lives of young Black people by bringing federal civil rights charges against the officer responsible for killing Ramarley Graham.”
Monifa Bandele of Malcolm X Grassroots Movement stated: “The Malcolm X Grassroots Movement stands in solidarity with Constance Malcolm. In light of the rampant extrajudicial killings of Black people by law enforcement and the recent slew of local and national killings that have gained national attention, it is imperative that Ramarley Graham’s killer be held accountable for his family’s grief, their call for justice and violating Ramarley’s human right to live.”
Last month in New York, Staten Island resident Eric Garner was killed by a NYPD officer who used a chokehold that has been prohibited for over 20 years. His death spurred scrutiny of frequent incidents of police brutality and discriminatory broken windows policing in New York City – a Daily News/New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) analysis found it targets Black and Latino New Yorkers six times more than their white counterparts. That led several New York members of Congress to call for an investigation by the Justice Department.
“Justice requires a full investigation of the killing of Ramarley Graham, only eighteen years old when he was shot inside his home,” said Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke. “Justice requires that we establish the equality of each individual person. As demonstrated by the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and the killing of Eric Garner in New York City, the devaluation of the lives of young men of color has continued to the present. Justice demands that we end these injustices.”
Congressman Hakeem Jeffries stated: “Throughout America, family after family continue to grapple with victimization resulting from the police use of excessive force most frequently directed at unarmed black males. In that context, the family of Ramarley Graham seek a fair and complete inquiry into his death. For that to occur, the Department of Justice must vigorously pursue a civil rights investigation and present its findings to a grand jury.”
Candis Tolliver, Assistant Advocacy Director for Organizing at NYCLU stated: “More than a year ago the Department of Justice promised to review the shooting death of Ramarley Graham yet his family is still seeking justice with no word on whether the DOJ will intervene. When police shoot an unarmed teen, there must be an immediate investigation, not bureaucracy or years of silence from those who we trust to bring about justice.”
In April, 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.
“Based on the facts that we already know, it is clear that the death of Ramarley Graham necessitates further investigation by the Department of Justice,” said New York State Assemblyman Karim Camara, chair of the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic & Asian Legislative Caucus. “Further, the alleged gun that was never discovered and the callous manner which the family alleges they were treated by the NYPD are aspects of this case that are still not entirely understood. We owe it to Ramarley and his family as well as all young men of color who see their civil rights violated far too often that this tragedy is not forgotten and that justice is done.”
Council Member Andy King, co-chair of the City Council’s Black, Latino and Asian Caucus stated: “The Department of Justice and the United States Attorney’s Office have the responsibility to respond to and be respectful of every human being. Today’s delivery of more than 32,000 signed petitions is evidence it is time for the DOJ and the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York to act and hold Officer Haste accountable for the death of Ramarley Graham.”
Council Member Vanessa L. Gibson, (D-Bronx, 16th CD), chair of the Council’s Public Safety Committee said: “Every day, more and more New Yorkers are coming to the stark realization that it is essential to join in a broad coalition to reform the New York City Police Department and bring accountability to the uniformed officers that we entrust with patrolling our streets and communities. As we strengthen police accountability it is essential for the federal Justice Department to conduct a full and independent investigation of the events that led to the tragic death of Ramarley Graham. Ramarley will never be forgotten by those New Yorkers who truly value justice and – along with offering my prayers to his mother Constance Malcolm and his loved ones – I want to thank those who are working so hard to keep his memory alive and finally win justice for Ramarley.”
Councilwoman Rosie Mendez, District 2, Co-Chair of the Council’s Black, Latino, and Asian Caucus stated: “It is inconceivable that two and a half years ago, the police followed a young man, Ramarley Graham, busted into his home and killed him. I stand with his mother Constance Malcolm and tens of thousands of New Yorkers in demanding that the Department of Justice conduct an investigation as to the circumstances that led to the killing and the violation of Ramarley Graham’s civil rights.”
The delivery of petitions and new request come just two weeks after Malcolm joined other families of New Yorkers unjustly killed by the NYPD over the past two decades to meet with the NYPD Inspector General, and just days before a march in Staten Island against police brutality.
Issues: 113th Congress