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Parents demand federal probe in NY police shooting

  • Article by: LARRY NEUMEISTER
  • Associated Press
  • August 20, 2014 - 7:15 PM

NEW YORK — The parents of a black 18-year-old man shot to death by a white New York City police officer in 2012 led several dozen supporters on a short march to a Manhattan prosecutor's office Wednesday to demand a federal civil rights probe.

"We feel like we don't count, like we don't even exist," Franclot Graham, the father, told a news conference as he complained that nobody from the U.S. attorney's office in Manhattan had met with the parents of Ramarley Graham after prosecutors said they would review evidence in the case a year ago to ensure no civil rights were violated.

A spokesman said attorneys with the office had been in touch with attorneys for Ramarley Graham's mother, and the office has been conducting its own investigation since last fall.

"There are many reasons that a federal civil rights investigation should be conducted confidentially, including grand jury secrecy rules, as well as prudential and other reasons, including fairness to all the parties involved. Above all, a proper investigation must be thorough, fair and independent so that in the end justice is done, and we are absolutely committed to that," spokesman James Margolin said.

U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch in Brooklyn was scheduled to meet Thursday with the family of a black Staten Island man who died July 17 after a white police officer put him in a chokehold as he was being arrested on suspicion of selling loose, untaxed cigarettes.

Ramarley Graham died after he was shot once in the upper chest in February 2012 in a tiny bathroom in the three-family home where he lived with his grandmother and other relatives.

Richard Haste, the officer who shot him, said in a court statement that he fired his weapon because he thought he was going to be shot. But no weapons were found in the apartment. Police said marijuana was found in the toilet.

Haste was indicted on manslaughter charges in the summer of 2012, but the charges were dismissed by a judge who said prosecutors improperly instructed grand jurors to imply they should disregard testimony from police officers that they radioed Haste in advance to warn him that they thought Graham had a pistol. A second grand jury decided not to re-indict the officer.

Franclot Graham said the family has not heard anything from the government since its promise to review the case for civil rights violations.

"Not a meeting, no face-to-face with anyone," he said. "I'm puzzled. I'm confused and I'm angry. My son has been dead almost 2½ years and I'm still waiting for my day in court. ... No one with authority seems to care about our son."

"My son counts. I will not stop fighting," he said as he wiped tears and stepped away from the microphone.

Constance Malcolm, the mother of Ramarley Graham, said she wants to meet U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara. She joined several lawyers, clergymen and political leaders at the entrance to Bharara's building as they submitted a letter addressed to Attorney General Eric Holder. Organizers of the rally said more than 33,000 people had signed petitions seeking a federal probe.

City Council member Andy King said people had been patient, but he warned there might come a time when 33,000 people who signed the petitions "will take to the streets."

Margolin said Bharara's office "is acutely aware of how painful it is to lose a child in an encounter with law enforcement under any circumstances" and is reviewing the letter.

© 2014 Star Tribune