Ramarley Graham's Mother Tells DOJ To Stop Dragging Its Feet

"You can't break into someone's home and kill them and walk away scot-free. It's just not right."

NEW YORK -- It's been nearly two years since the U.S. Department of Justice announced that it was reviewing the evidence in the death of Ramarley Graham, an unarmed black teen gunned down at his home in the Bronx in 2012 by NYPD Officer Richard Haste.

And it's been nearly a year since the DOJ told Graham's family it had launched a formal civil rights investigation into his death. 

Yet while the DOJ has since wrapped up investigations into the deaths of two other unarmed black teens -- Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown -- Graham's family is still waiting for answers. 

"We're here demanding that the Department of Justice move swiftly on this case," Graham's mother, Constance Malcolm, told a crowd of supporters Thursday outside the office of U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara in lower Manhattan. "They've been investigating for two years now, but that's not telling me anything. I want to know when I'm going to get justice for my son."

"This is Chinnor Campbell, Ramarley's brother, that was in the house when he was killed," she continued, her hands resting on 9-year-old Chinnor's shoulders. "What are you telling him? That the system doesn't work for him? We don't want that. We want the officers involved in Ramarley's killing to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, not a slap on the wrist."

Ramarley Graham's 9-year-old brother, Chinnor Campbell, holds a sign at a rally on Thursday, July 23, 2015.
Ramarley Graham's 9-year-old brother, Chinnor Campbell, holds a sign at a rally on Thursday, July 23, 2015.

"My son is in a cemetery right now," Malcolm added. "I can't see my son anymore. So what are you telling us? We want justice and we want it now. Preet Bharara, please stop dragging your feet and move on this case. We want to see justice in this case. Because without justice, it's giving the wrong impression of this country. You can't break into someone's home and kill them and walk away scot-free. It's just not right." 

During the rally, a group of 40 youth activists from various organizations, including the Justice Committee, Make The Road New York and UPROSE, read aloud a list of facts about Graham's case: 

On Feb. 2, 2012, the NYPD says a narcotics unit in the Bronx saw Graham adjust his waistband outside a bodega -- a sign, according to the department, that Graham was carrying a gun. The NYPD says that when officers approached Graham, he took off running toward his mother's house just a few blocks away.

Surveillance footage, however, shows Graham calmly walking up to his mother's home on East 229th Street. He unlocks the door and glances briefly behind him before walking inside. Seconds later, two cops sprint up to the house, guns drawn, and start trying to knock down the door.

For four to five minutes, the footage shows, the officers were unable to get inside. Eventually officers managed to get into the building through a back door and let more in through the front. Police charged upstairs, and one officer broke down the door to Graham's apartment. The NYPD says that when Haste entered the apartment, he confronted Graham inside the bathroom, where the teen was allegedly trying to flush a bag of marijuana down the toilet. The NYPD claims that Graham reached for his waistband during the confrontation, prompting Haste to shoot him once in the chest.

But no gun was found on Graham, in the bathroom or anywhere else in the house. Chinnor, then 6 years old, and Ramarley's grandmother, Patricia Hartley, both witnessed the shooting. Graham was later pronounced dead at the hospital.

A grand jury in the Bronx indicted Haste on manslaughter charges, but the indictment was thrown out due to an error made by an assistant district attorney when instructing the grand jurors. After a second grand jury declined to indict Haste, the DOJ announced it would review the case. About a year later, it confirmed to the family that it had launched its civil rights investigation. 

In January of this year, the city of New York announced it had reached a $3.9 million settlement with Graham's family, resolving a federal lawsuit the family had brought against the NYPD over Graham's death. 

After the settlement was announced, Malcolm said she would keep fighting for Haste to be prosecuted. “The settlement does not bring my son back," she said at the time. 

Jim Margolin, a spokesman for Bharara, told The Huffington Post Friday morning only that the investigation into Graham's death was ongoing. 

When asked at the rally Thursday why she thought the DOJ's investigation into Graham's death appeared to be taking longer than its investigations into deaths of Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin -- neither of which resulted in federal indictments -- Malcolm remained hopeful. 

"I'm just hoping the reason why they're taking so long is that they're gonna come back in and indict this officer and prosecute him," she said. "That's what I'm hoping."