Frank Graham, father of slain teen Ramarley Graham, participates in a silent march to end the stop-and-frisk policy in New York, Sunday, June 17, 2012. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
At around 3 pm on a Thursday afternoon in February 2012, 18-year-old Ramarley Graham was leaving a Bronx bodega with his friends, when he was followed by members of the Street Narcotics Enforcement Unit of the 47th Precinct of the New York Police Department. Footage from his home’s surveillance camera shows that Ramarley approached the door of his house, in the Wakefield section of the Bronx, unlocked it and walked inside. An officer then ran to the door, followed by another, gun drawn, and tried to kick it in without success. Multiple officers swarmed the house, entering through the back without a warrant and letting others in through the front.
Officers at the bodega radioed their suspicion that Ramarley was armed. Rather than moving with caution and calling for backup, NYPD officers broke through a series of doors, following Ramarley upstairs and into his bathroom. According to Officer Richard Haste, he yelled “Show me your hands!” before Ramarley reached for his belt. Shouting “Gun! Gun!” Haste then shot Ramarley in the chest, killing him. No weapon was found, only a small bag of marijuana which investigators hypothesized Ramarley had been attempting to flush down the toilet.
Ramarley Graham was one of at least twenty-one 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. In 2013 so far, twelve people have been fatally shot by NYPD, including 16-year-old Kimani Gray this past March. Stolen Lives estimates that since Amadou Diallo was killed in 1999, unarmed and fired upon forty-one times outside his apartment building, at least 238 people have been killed by NYPD—the majority black or Latino men or teenagers.
Setting Ramarley Graham’s case apart from most was the indictment of his shooter, then 31, who was charged with manslaughter, first and second degree. It was the first indictment of an on-duty NYPD officer for such a shooting since 2007, when three detectives were indicted, and later acquitted, for killing Sean Bell, also in the Bronx. A 23-year-old father, Bell had been out celebrating on the eve of his wedding when killed. Haste pleaded not guilty, just as the detectives in the Bell case did.
Since their son’s death, Ramarley’s parents, Constance Malcolm and Franclot (Frank) Graham, have been fighting tirelessly for answers and accountability. The raid on the family’s home was traumatic; Ramarley’s little brother Chinnor, now 7, was in the house, along with his grandmother, Patricia Hartley, who was taken directly to the NYPD’s 47th Precinct Station House and interrogated for seven hours. Beginning shortly after Ramarley’s funeral, which included the Reverand Al Sharpton as a speaker, Malcolm and Graham held eighteen weekly vigils outside the house where he died, one for each year of his life. They also created the organization Ramarley’s Call, which meets weekly to strategize rallies and participation in other anti-police brutality events.