New York Daily News

June 14, 2012


 

Cops cheer NYPD Officer Richard Haste, charged in death of teen Ramarley Graham

'That’s how they work,' Graham's mother cries

By Matthew Lysiak, Daniel Beekman AND Larry Mcshane

The cheers of fellow cops for her unarmed son's killer stung Constance Malcolm as cruelly as the bitter tears in her eyes.

"That's how they work," the heartbroken mom said Wednesday after Officer Richard Haste was sprung on $50,000 bail in the Feb. 2 shooting of Ramarley Graham. "You see it every day."

Malcolm and her husband, Franclot Graham, sobbed throughout the Bronx Criminal Court hearing where Haste softly pleaded innocent on his 31st birthday. The weeping Graham faces Father's Day without his son.

Yet the assembled cops still applauded their brother in blue, who faces up to 25 years in prison, in a salute that struck the Graham family like a slap in the face.

"There is nothing to cheer here," said Graham family lawyer Jeffrey Emdin. "A young man lost his life, and that is the man who took that life.

"It puts salt in the wounds."

Courthouse protesters infuriated by the Bronx killing offered a vocal counterpoint to the clapping by taunting the four-year NYPD veteran.

"NYPD, KKK, how many kids did you kill today?" the demonstrators chanted at Haste, who appeared in court on crutches after a recent motorcycle accident.

Prosecutor Donald Levin, during the arraignment, said Haste's decision to fire a single fatal shot into Graham was "neither reasonable or justifiable."

In the most detailed description yet of the fatal encounter, Levin said Graham and Haste were just a few feet apart inside the cramped second-floor bathroom.

Haste "stood face to face with Ramarley Graham," his weapon pointed directly at the teen, whose grandmother and 6-year-old brother were nearby, Levin said.

"Ramarley Graham was boxed in the bathroom. He had nowhere to go," the prosecutor continued, using his hands to pantomime the shooting. "Ramarley was looking at the barrel, the muzzle of the gun."

It was the last thing the teenager ever saw.

"Then Officer Haste consciously and deliberately pulled the trigger, shooting Ramarley Graham and causing his death," said Levin.

Haste, an ex-Marine who had never previously fired his weapon on duty, showed little emotion during the Bronx Criminal Court hearing.

He spoke only once, delivering his plea in a quiet voice: "Not guilty."

Once bail was posted, Haste climbed into a waiting black sedan and drove away from the courthouse with the protesters' shouts still echoing.

Defense attorney Stuart London insisted Haste believed he was about to die when he pulled the trigger.

"When he woke up that morning, he had no intention to fire his weapon at all," said London, adding that Graham ignored orders to show his hands. "He had no choice but to fire."

Haste slipped into the courthouse through a side door to face arraignment on manslaughter charges. One side of the courtroom was filled with police officers and unions reps, while the other held the Graham family and their supporters.

The latter group made a dramatic courtroom entrance, gripping one another's shoulders to form a human chain as they marched silently through the hallway.

Icy glares were directed toward the NYPD presence during the morning hearing. Outside the courtroom, Graham's father said he was still stunned by the killing.

"I keep asking, 'Why? Why? Why did he kill my son?' " Franclot Graham said through sobs. "Eighteen years old. He did nothing to deserve this."

Patrolmen's Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch said the police turnout was intended only as a show of support for Haste.

"Anyone that loses a child or a family member has that grief, and we respect that grief," said Lynch.

Haste's past NYPD record was clean, although a pending suit accuses him in connection with the beating and wrongful arrest of a Bronx man.

The single cop has a steady girlfriend and was honorably discharged from the Marines after an injury during a training exercise.

Haste chased Graham into his apartment after hearing reports via police radio that the teen drug suspect had a gun in his waistband, police said.

While cops contend Graham ran when ordered to stop, surveillance video showed him walking inside his home before plainclothes cops tried to kick their way into the apartment.

Haste claimed that he fired once after identifying himself as a police officer and mistakenly thinking that he saw a weapon — but no gun was found.

With Erik Badia, Kerry Burke and Rocco Parascandola

mlysiak@nydailynews.com