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Ramarley Graham’s Family Seeks Justice As City Council Sets Up Oversight of NYPD

photo credit: Vanissa W. Chan

New York City Council members are expected to vote today to override Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s veto of the Community Safety Act –  legislation creating further oversight of the NYPD while providing recourse to victims of racial profiling. Meanwhile, the family of Ramarley Graham is still wondering if they will ever get justice for the NYPD’s unprovoked shooting of the unarmed 18-year-old last year.

The City Council legislation comes after a federal judge ruled that the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk policy unconstitutionally violated the rights of black and Latino males, and ordered the appointment of an inspector general.

Ramarley Graham was killed in February 2012 after leaving a Bronx bodega with friends and returning to his home, where officers kicked down doors and shot Graham in his chest, apparently as he tried to flush a small bag of marijuana down the toilet.

There was outrage following Graham’s death, with Rev. Al Sharpton speaking at his funeral, but in May Judge Steven L. Barrett threw out the indictment that had been filed against Richard Haste, the officer accused of killing Graham, because he said the language used by the District Attorney to present the case to the grand jury was “misleading.”

“With no great pleasure, I’m obliged in this case to dismiss the charges,” Judge Barrett told the court. He did add that his ruling wasn’t saying Haste had acted with justification, and that the DA had the right to reconvene a grand jury. But two weeks ago, on August 7, a reconvened grand jury decided not to re-indict Officer Haste.

An article on the Graham case in The Nation says he was one of at least 21 people killed by the NYPD in 2012, according to the Stolen Lives Project, a project of the October 22 Coalition, whose members mine news articles and reach out to the community seeking examples of deaths at the hands of police.

There have been 12 such examples so far in 2013, including the death of 16-year-old Kimani Gray in March. According to an estimate by Stolen Lives, since Amadou Diallo was killed in 1999, unarmed and fired upon 41 times outside his apartment building, at least 238 people have been killed by NYPD—the majority black or Latino men or teenagers.

Since Ramarley’s death, his parents, Constance Malcolm and Franclot ‘Frank’ Graham, have created an organization named Ramarley’s Call, which meets weekly to strategize rallies and participation in other anti-police brutality events.

“I’m just lost right now,” a tearful Frank Graham said after the announcement. “I’ve got so much pain and anger inside of me.”

The family has initiated a petition calling for the Department of Justice to open an investigation into the case. The family has held other protests and plans to participate in the upcoming march on Washington with Sharpton’s National Action Network on Saturday.

“We have to ask ourselves this question,” Graham said outside the DA’s office on August 8. “Had Ramarley been white, would this have happened? Would they have run into a white person’s home?”


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