Wall Street Journal
June 11, 2012

NYPD Officer Indicted in Shooting Death of Bronx Teen

By Sean Gardiner

The police officer who fatally shot an unarmed Bronx teenager inside the bathroom of his apartment has been indicted for manslaughter, according to people with knowledge of the investigation.

Officer Richard Haste, 30 years old, was indicted by a Bronx grand jury Monday in connection with the Feb. 2 shooting death of 18-year-old Ramarley Graham, one of the people said. Graham had been trying to flush a small bag of marijuana down the toilet at the time of the shooting.

The indictment will be unsealed Wednesday, and Haste is expected to turn himself into authorities that morning, one of the people said. Melvin Hernandez, a spokesman for the Bronx District Attorney's Office, declined to comment.

Patrick Lynch, the head of Haste's union, the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, said the officer would be exonerated at trial.

Haste "believed that he was pursuing an armed felon who bolted rather than be caught with an illegal gun," Lynch said in a statement. "Several members of the officer's team had confirmed the presence of a gun and that constituted a grave danger to the officers and the community."

Attempts to reach Graham's family were unsuccessful.

A team of police officers assigned to the Street Narcotics Enforcement Unit, a precinct-level plain-clothes squad, was watching a bodega suspected as a drug market on White Plains Road and East 229th Street.

The officers observed Graham fidgeting with his waistband as he left the bodega and one spotted what looked like the butt of a gun — prompting one officer to warn his partners that the teen was armed, according to an account of the incident by New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly.

When the officers identified themselves and ordered Graham not to move, the teen ran into his family's home on East 229th Street. The officers pursued, gaining entry to the three-family building after a neighbor let them in.

Guns out, the officers ran to the second floor and broke down the door. They spotted Graham down a long hallway near the back of the apartment and saw the teenager duck into the bathroom.

What exactly occurred next hasn't been made public. Haste was so convinced Graham was armed that he yelled "gun, gun" before firing, according to Kelly's account, while Graham moved to flush a bag containing a small amount of marijuana down the toilet.

Haste fired once, striking Graham in the chest. The teen was pronounced dead at Montefiore Medical Center.

In the aftermath of the shooting, Kelly ordered an audit of all Street Narcotics Enforcement Unit teams after it was discovered that Haste hadn't been fully trained in his unit's specialized techniques for street confrontations and drug recognition.

Haste is the first NYPD officer to be indicted on manslaughter charges for action taken in the line of duty since the 2006 shooting of Sean Bell.