Wall Street Journal

March 8, 2016 7:50 p.m. ET


NYPD Officer Won’t Face Federal Charges in Teen’s Death

U.S. attorney’s office closes its investigation in 2012 shooting death of unarmed black teen

By REBECCA DAVIS O’BRIEN and MARK MORALES  

MIKE SEGAR/REUTERS
Constance Malcolm and Franclot Graham spoke to the media Tuesday after the U.S. attorney’s office closed its investigation into the shooting death of their son, Ramarley Graham. 

Federal prosecutors said Tuesday they won’t pursue criminal charges in the 2012 shooting death of an unarmed black teenager by a New York Police Department officer, saying there was insufficient evidence to prove a civil-rights violation.

Preet Bharara, the U.S. attorney in Manhattan, said his office closed its investigation into the death of Ramarley Graham, who was 18 years old when he was shot by NYPD OfficerRichard Haste in the bathroom of his family’s Bronx apartment.

In a statement, Mr. Bharara’s office said the “weight of the evidence” indicated Officer Haste believed Mr. Graham was reaching for a gun at the time of the shooting. A bag of marijuana was found near Mr. Graham after he was shot, prosecutors said.

“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,” the statement said.

Mr. Graham’s family and civil-rights leaders expressed disappointment Tuesday in the lack of criminal charges and called for the NYPD to fire Officer Haste.

    
SETH WENIG/ASSOCIATED PRESS  
Officer Richard Haste in June 2012.   

The family sought federal intervention in the case in 2013 after state criminal charges against Officer Haste didn’t advance. A grand jury indicted him on a manslaughter charge in 2012, but a Bronx justice dismissed the charge. A second grand jury declined to indict him.

Officer Haste is currently on modified duty at the NYPD. With the federal probe closed, the NYPD’s internal disciplinary process will now move forward, a spokesman said.

“He doesn’t need to be a cop, with his reckless behavior,” said Constance Malcolm, Mr. Graham’s mother. “You’re supposed to serve and protect. You didn’t serve my son. You didn’t protect my son. You murdered my son.”

The teen’s father, Franclot Graham, said it seemed like police officers’ words were given greater weight than those of citizens.

Police “are protected to the highest level,” he said. “That’s an insult to the victims and their families, like my son.”

Patrick Lynch, president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, the main police union in the city, said he was pleased that no charges were brought but “there is no winner here.”

“The officer was working to combat the scourge of guns and drugs in the community,” he said. “The good faith effort to combat those ills brought us to this tragedy.”

Mr. Bharara met with Mr. Graham’s family Tuesday before his office announced the end of the investigation. The office declined to comment beyond the statement it issued.

Mr. Graham’s family settled a wrongful-death suit with the city for $3.9 million last year.

On Tuesday, the Rev. Al Sharpton called for Officer Haste’s termination and for further legal action, saying the officer’s behavior was “a danger to citizens.”

Mr. Graham’s death and the ensuing investigations raised questions about police accountability, particularly in the deaths of unarmed black men.

Last month, a Brooklyn jury found an NYPD officer guilty of manslaughter in the fatal shooting of an unarmed man. It was the first conviction of an NYPD officer in a shooting death of a civilian since 2005.

Write to Rebecca Davis O’Brien at Rebecca.OBrien@wsj.com