Feds Punt On Ramarley Graham’s Killing
Mar. 9, 2016 (Mimesis Law) — It only took United States Attorney Preet Bharara four years to decide to take the easy route. There will be no federal civil rights prosecution against the New York City police officer who shot and killed.
Citing the difficulty of proving intent under federal civil rights law, Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement Tuesday that “there is insufficient evidence” to prosecute Richard Haste, the NYPD officer who fired the single round that killed Graham.
“The investigation revealed no evidence to refute Officer Haste’s claim that he shot Mr. Graham in response to his mistaken belief that Mr. Graham was reaching for a gun,” read Bharara’s statement.
Exactly what evidence were you looking for as to Haste’s “intent”? A ransom note? Maybe a Facebook post baring Haste’s soul? A cellmate trading his “admission against penal interest” for a get out of jail free pass? What, Preet? For the rest of the world, intent is proven based upon conduct. A person is deemed to intend the natural consequences of his actions. Did you expect something else when the shooter is a cop?
The Graham case was ugly from the start, and got more sordid as it went on.
Ramarley Graham died . . . after Richard Haste, 30, a New York police officer, entered his grandmother’s apartment and shot Graham in the chest while he attempted to flush a bag of marijuana down the toilet. Graham was unarmed and police did not have a warrant to enter the home.
Police officials said that members of a street narcotics squad broadcast over their radios that they saw the butt of a gun in Graham’s waistband as he left a convenience store, under observation for suspected drug activity. The young man then fled up the block to his home after two plainclothes officers in an unmarked squad car told him to stop, officials said.
As Graham tried to flush away the weed, Haste put one bullet into him, claiming he saw him reach for his waist, and killed him. Notably, the allegation was that he was first spotted for a gun butt in his waistband, at a drug spot, a detail that blew Haste’s indictment in The Bronx.
Haste later turned himself in on manslaughter charges, to which he plead [sic] not guilty.
Last week Judge Steven L. Barrett expressed concern that the Bronx DA’s office had erroneously told the grand jury, who voted to indict Haste, to disregard evidence that the officer received a warning from other officers that Graham was armed.
Expressed concern may not adequately capture Justice Barrett’s position. He tossed the indictment with leave to resubmit. The grand jury returned no true bill the second time around, ending the state court prosecution. And so, it was left to Preet to do something. Or do nothing.
With the announcement, the federal probe into Graham’s death is officially closed. According to the statement, Bharara met with Graham’s family to tell them about his office’s decision not to prosecute and to offer his condolences.
February marked the four-year anniversary of Graham’s death, and his family had hoped that the federal investigation would shed light on the many unanswered questions in the case.
The Graham family settled a civil suit with the City for $3.9 million, which strongly suggests that there is one answer known, that the City was confident it would get its butt kicked should the case go to trial. But four years later, the only explanation for why Graham was killed is the official cop excuse. And there are $3.9 million reasons to believe it may not be entirely truthful.
Surveillance footage, however, shows Graham calmly walking up to his mother’s home on East 229th Street, unlocking the door and walking inside. Seconds later, the surveillance footage shows two cops sprinting up to the house, guns drawn, and attempting to knock down the door.
For four to five minutes, the footage shows, the officers were unable to get inside. Meanwhile, in the back of the house, several officers were also trying to gain entry. When a young boy who lived in the first-floor apartment opened the back door, the officers, who also had their guns drawn, ran past the boy and his father to the front of the house, where they let their fellow officers inside.
So the warrantless entry in the apartment can’t be justified under any formulation, no matter how ridiculous, of the “hot pursuit” doctrine. But what happened after they unlawfully broke down the door and entered the home?
The NYPD says Graham reached for his waistband during the confrontation, prompting Haste to shoot him once in the chest.
No gun was found on Ramarley, in the bathroom, or anywhere else in the house. Graham’s 6-year-old brother, Chinoor Campbell, and his grandmother, Patricia Hartley, witnessed the shooting.
But he reached for his waistband? Why? Why would someone who has no gun, who is in the process of trying to flush some pot down the toilet, who has a cop with a gun drawn and pointed at him, reach for his waistband? Why would he do this when he has no gun?
We still don’t know which officer first claimed that Graham had a gun. We don’t know if that officer actually saw a gun, or just saw Graham adjusting his waistband. We don’t know why, in the bathroom, Graham would reach for a gun he didn’t have. We don’t know why officers didn’t call for backup, as is protocol when chasing down an armed suspect.
We don’t know why officers did not get a warrant before breaking into Graham’s house, nor why the NYPD claimed that Ramarley ran when surveillance footage shows him walking.
Or, perhaps, we do know why. And Preet knows why too. Because sometimes, cops just decide to go after a kid they think is a bad dude, and ignore all procedures, law and constitutional rights, in the process. Sometimes, they just shoot them, whether for a bad reason or no reason. Sometimes, they make up the best story they can afterward to make themselves not look nearly as guilty as they are, even if the story is ridiculous and full of holes.
And sometimes, the United States Attorney doesn’t feel that his office is good enough to win a case, and he doesn’t want to suffer the humiliation of getting whipped, so he delays as long as he can, and then punts.