NEW YORK, United States, Tuesday August 13, 2013 – United States federal prosecutors say they will review the case of a Jamaican youth killed by a New York Police Department (NYPD) officer to determine whether the civil rights of the unarmed youth were violated.
The US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York made the announcement a day after a grand jury in the Bronx, New York refused to re-indict white police officer Richard Haste, who last year shot dead Ramarley Graham, 18, in his Bronx home.
Haste was indicted in June 2012, four months after shooting Graham, on February 2, 2012, in the bathroom of his home.
But, in May, Bronx Supreme Court Justice Steven Barrett tossed the case, stating that an assistant district attorney wrongly instructed the grand jury to disregard whether other cops had told Haste that Graham was armed. Graham was, in fact, unarmed, prosecutors said.
Barrett gave the Bronx District Attorney’s Office leave to re-indict Haste, but the second grand jury this week decided against a manslaughter charge.
The announcement by the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York came as demonstrators Thursday protested the grand jury’s decision.
They likened the case to that of Trayvon Martin, the 17-year-old black youth, who was fatally shot by neighbourhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman in Sanford, Florida.
In what protesters said was a blatant miscarriage of justice, Zimmerman was acquitted last month of the charges by an all-white female jury.
“The criminal justice system has failed us, just as it failed the family of Trayvon Martin,” said Constance Malcolm, Ramarley’s Jamaican-born mother, at a rally outside the Bronx District Attorney’s office.
Frank Graham, Ramarley’s Jamaican-born father, also repeated the words of Martin’s parents after Zimmerman was acquitted of second-degree murder.
“If Ramarley had been white, would this have happened? He was in his home, where you’re supposed to be free and safe.”
Graham family attorney Jeffrey Emdin described the decision not to indict Haste as “a punch in the gut.
“We feel it’s an injustice. We feel that this officer is getting away with murder. It’s a really, really sad day. The family is terribly disappointed. They think it’s a travesty, and we are going to be pursuing a federal investigation.”
Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson said his office is “surprised and shocked by the grand jury’s finding of no criminal liability in the death of Ramarley Graham.
“We are saddened for the family of the deceased young man,” he said.
But Patrick Lynch, president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, the union that represents law enforcement officers in New York City, agreed with the grand jury’s decision.
“This grand jury recognized that Police Officer Haste was pursuing what he had every reason to believe was a man with a gun,” he said, adding that Haste faced “imminent danger”.
The NYPD said Haste remains on modified duty following the grand jury’s decision.