NEW YORK – There will be no federal charges in the fatal police shooting of 18-year-old Ramarley Graham in February of 2012, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara announced Tuesday.
Bharara met with Graham's family to inform them of his decision before making the announcement. Bharara called the teen's death a "tragic loss."
Graham died when an NYPD officer shot him inside his grandmother's house in the Wakefield section of the Bronx on February 2, 2012.
"After conducting a through and independent investigation, the U.S. Attorney's Office has determined that there is insufficient evidence to meet the high burden of proof required for a federal criminal civil rights prosecution," according to a press release. "To prove a violation of the federal criminal civil rights statute, prosecutors must establish, beyond a reasonable doubt, that a law enforcement officer willfully deprived an individual of a constitutional right, meaning that the officer acted with the deliberate and specific intent to do something the law forbids."
The fatal police chase began when officers from the Street Narcotics Enforcement Unit reported seeing Graham and two others enter and quickly enter a bodega. Police alerted a nearby surveillance team who followed them down East Plains Road. One of the officers reported seeing "the slide of a firearm tucked into the waistband of Mr. Graham's pants," according to officials.
The team pulled up in an unmarked car and tried to stop Graham at his grandmother's house, but the 18-year-old ran inside. NYPD officer Richard Haste tried and failed to kick down the front door before running around the back and entering the house, according to the NYPD. Haste later said he told Graham, "Police, show me your hands," before Graham ran into the bathroom.
Officer Haste kicked in the bathroom door and fired his weapon after seeing Graham make a motion to pull something out of his waistband, he later said. No gun was recovered at the scene. A small bag of marijuana was found in the toilet bowl, according to police.
Any violation of federal law rested upon whether or not Haste had reason to believe he was about to be seriously injured or killed. After hearing the radio transmission reporting a gun in Graham's waistband, Haste had probable cause to fear for his safety, the U.S. Attorney ruled. "Although Officer Haste ultimately was proven to be mistaken in his belief, the determination as to the willfulness of his actions must be assessed in light of his knowledge at the time of the shooting."
For four years, Graham's mother Constance Malcolm and other family members called for justice in the shooting. The family filed a wrongful death lawsuit and agreed to a $3.9 million settlement in January, 2015.
"How can you you have this on video? Cops breaking the law and yet they still walk way, let alone break into your house and kill somebody and walk away?" Malcolm said in a 2014 interview with PIX11. "We are still here. We're not going away. We need answers to what happened to my son."
Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. said he is "deeply saddened and extremely shocked" about the decision to toss the federal case against officer Haste. "Though we are disappointed, the best way to honor Ramarley Graham's memory is to come together in healing and work towards solutions."