Police Shooting of Unarmed Man Has Community on Edge

Thursday, February 09, 2012


UPDATE: Police Commissioner Kelly has ordered a top-to bottom review of street-level narcotics enforcement procedures, WNYC confirmed Thursday.  The review is a response to the department's discovery that Officer Richard Haste, who shot Graham, had not been properly trained.

Ramarley Graham was shot and killed by an NYPD officer a week ago in the Bronx. Police followed  the 18-year-old into his apartment believing he had a gun, but no weapon was ever found.  There’s been a passionate outcry by the community about the killing — especially because it happened inside the teenager's home.

A day after Ramarley Graham was killed, a candlelight vigil was held for him on 229th street, in the Wakefield section of the Bronx. It quickly  morphed into a rally, with the crowd chanting “We want justice!”

“I'm here because my neighbor got killed by a police officer in his own home,” said Sharla Buchanan, who lives across the street from the Graham family. It’s that detail — that the shooting took place inside Graham’s home, one he shared with his grandmother and younger brother — that particularly upset Buchanan and others at the rally.

 “The NYPD should have done what they were trained to do,” fellow neighbor Ainsley Lewis said. “They weren't trained to kick down the house without a warrant and go inside someone's house and kill them."

(Photo: Sharla Buchanan and Ainsley Lewis protesting the shooting death of Ramarley Graham. Kathleen Horan/WNYC)

Law Professor Jim Cohen, who teaches at Fordham University School of Law, said the location does matter in cases like these. Cohen thinks if police thought Graham was carrying a concealed weapon, they should have stopped him on the street and searched instead of permitting him to go into his home.

Cohen said in certain cases when police believe a dangerous crime is being committed, officers in "hot pursuit" may enter someone's house but they must have strong circumstances to enter.

"It is not routine at all for the police to invade a home absent legitimate cause. That said, it’s also not unheard of. So I think the community has a legitimate fear for their families,” Cohen said.

It’s not clear how often the police enter a suspect's home without a warrant during an investigation.

The NYPD said they thought Graham had a weapon, but only marijuana was recovered from the second floor apartment.

At a second rally held in the neighborhood on Monday, Graham's mother, grandmother and father led the impassioned crowd to the 47th Police Precinct.

Outside the station house, Graham's sister, 22-year-old Leona Virgo, balanced on the shoulders of other protesters, told the crowd the shooting is about their brothers as well. “It’s not just about Ramarley. It’s about all black young men."

(Photo: Ramarley Graham's Family: Franclot Graham (father), Patricia Harley (grandmother) and Constance Malcom (mother) leading the community march to the 47th precinct. Kathleen Horan/WNYC)

Another detail that has alarmed some in the community is Graham's age. Justina Piggot has a 14-year old son. That’s what brought her out to the rally. Piggot said he has already been stopped and frisked by police once.

"My child is very good not bothering nobody,” she explained, “was just going to walk to the park to work out with his father. So I am just here for my son. If I don’t stand here in support then it could have been my son [who was killed].”

Leanette Po said she also worries for her five teenage boys.

"Our kids have no justice none at all. It’s unfair, they should be punished and I hope it won’t be shoved under the rug because they are cops, " she said.

The NYPD has said the killing is being investigated and the shooting officer and his sergeant have been placed on restricted duty.

Ramarley Graham's family said they’re still arranging details for his upcoming funeral.


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Comments [35]

Red Walls

How could the police feel he had a gun, if they did not see a gun? I lived 20 years in Jamaica,Queens and remember entire police divisions involved in the drug trade. For all the individuals standing up for the police, you are wrong on this one. I remember playing basketball in Montibello Park with friends, and the police would ride onto the sidewalks and onto the basketball courts for no reason, not even looking for anybody, just to harass us. They want to bust guys with drugs, just to turn around and sell them. If you are a true native New Yorker, you know what I am talking about. REMEMBER LARRY DAVIS????

Feb. 11 2012 10:28 AM
PegMM from The Bronx from Bronx

DianaF from Bronx, NY is correct on all info in her post. We, of Wakefield are a mix of people as she described. I was born on the same block I live on now, near my deceased neighbor, Ramarley Graham. Met my husband grew up 1 1/2 year ahead of me on this block @ 19, married and moved back here 28 years ago. I have never had closer neighbors who would do as much for me as I would for them. We aren't naive, we see color. However, we embrace each other's cultures, customs and value what each person brings to the community. Our quiet, residential neighborhood has been neglected since Sept. 11th. and continues through the so called "economic downturn". Like suburban neighborhoods, we have had a collapse with foreclosure. This is not the case in other areas of The Bronx. The community served by Senator Jeffrey Klein which meanders into the predominantly rich white sections of The Bronx and Westchester, continues to get funds and place pressure on the banks to keep the houses up. Not here. Although we try to buy locally with local merchants, banks such as Citibank left us and corrupt Real Estate practices and financial institutions took advantage. I know my representatives work hard, so why the imbalance in funds in the Bronx? On the subject of young and marijuana: the young are are targeted to sell it for a dozen reasons, resulting in a vicious cycle of criminal records that prevent them from ever become legitimately employed or attain achievement. Most feel that it is not in the class of other very seriously addicting drugs. Legislators pushed it from storefront sales, INSIDE, OUT on to the street. Other communities find that selling in a store with oversight stops all of this criminality of the drug. Let's find real jobs for our children that enrich them and their lives so they can do the same for the whole.

Feb. 10 2012 07:21 PM

Preppie kids at Columbia and other Ivy League schools sell and use one sends Narc officers to shoot them to death in their homes and dorms.

None of these writers know Wakefield..I do. None of these police officers know Wakefield...they care nothing for the areas or people they serve.

I am one Caribbean Hindu mother whose son still lives in Wakefield. I don't want to ever receive the message this mother did - that my son was murdered in my bathroom by a man who swore to protect him.

Richard Haste should be fired and NOW.

Feb. 10 2012 01:04 AM
kimberly Hyman from Harlem World 126

First of all none of you even know my cousin! His mom was working probably! Who the hell are u white ass cops to talk about bher parenting! So what if he flushed something down the toliet I didn't know tht meant to take his life away. Now he is not with us, The rest of his family. NYPD KKK HOW MANY BLACK KIDS HAVE YOU KILLED TODAY! You guys could try to clean whatever up....But GOD knows the truth. We will leave it in god hands. NYPD...KKK you are all the same gang.... ! And all the money or wateva u do to fix it....2ont help because you cnt bring him back! And Ifit was one of your kids you would be just as hurt!

Feb. 09 2012 11:37 PM
joe from brooklyn

fantastic! Thank you for caring!

Feb. 09 2012 08:24 PM
SG from Manhattan

the police did not just pick this apartment to go into, they were there because the kid was doing something he shouldn't be doing. where are the parents ? i think the cop that shot the kid would have preferred to have been having a coffee and donut at dunkin donuts instead of having a fight with a kid in his bathroom. i am amazed that when people call 911 and i arrive, they are angry at me for answering the call. unfortunate incident, the kid or his parents could have prevented it ....

Feb. 09 2012 04:19 PM
john from office

Wow, everyone is an expert on police procedure. How about some comments on Parenting procedure and parent your kids so they don't get killed by the gang banger or the police. Very few of these comments mention the role of a parent or parents in how you live your life, or lose your life.

Again, where were the parents.

Feb. 09 2012 03:27 PM
Rich from Brooklyn

@aguevara, i try not to consider the officers that commit police brutality because they are the minority in the force. sure there are some twisted ppl out there but being "sick and demented" is more like a disease that most ppl do not get. like a "1 in 8" statistic. And an even greater minority among human beings are people that aren't afraid to lose their lives. Being fearless is very possible but in this society it is very much an ideal. many officers just try to make it through the day unscathed, they have mouths to feed or ppl they want to see again tomorrow or plans to go to disney world, so they are extremely cautious and when situations arise "on edge"-- dangerously "on edge. i see police brutality as only possibly coming to an end if there are more comprehensive psychological anaylses of incoming officers, but even then that could fail, because officers can develop these sadistic tendencies after years on the job, the "expedient officer" that sees the job for what it is.

Feb. 09 2012 02:37 PM

Rich from Brooklyn..very nice comment. I myself have strong feelings about all this police brutality..IT HAS TO STOP! I completely understand what your saying about them being scared, but there has to be some kind of demon in side of them for them to beat people and kill innocent people. You shouldn't be a police officer if your going to be walking around scared to lose your life. They are the ones that are supposed to protect us and if your willing on "protecting people" you can't be scared. If they are scared about not coming home to their family at the end of their shift, they shouldn't be a police officer.

Feb. 09 2012 02:16 PM
Rich from Brooklyn

i agree with you Bernie. A lot of people actually think the cops are out here hunting black people, like they are looking for any excuse to pull the trigger. A lot of these police are from families with strong values, hence why they most likely joined the police force in the first place. Its like training for war, you're never actually trained to eliminate your FEAR, but you're trained to work under pressure with the coolest head possible to make rational decisions. Some ppl are better at putting their fear on the back burner than others. Unfortunately most people incl. police fear for their lives, esp. in communities where stories of violence, cop-killers, and shoot-outs are proliferated throughout the city. The police go into situations with certain expectations, and with the thoughts of potential suspects not fearing the law and consequence, they are ready to protect their own lives-- first and foremost. That is what really is dangerous of the police; it's the fact that the majority of them don't have the intention to cause harm, but they are perpetually antsy in these situations because of their expectations, and are therefore more likely to pull the trigger. That is why black men are often the target; because of expectations and sadly stereotypes, not necessarily hate towards them. Stereotypes are based off of observations that people have made, and bernie is correct, it is young black men who are more likely to be holding a weapon. btw i am black myself living in one of these communities.

Feb. 09 2012 01:04 PM
fuva from Harlemworld

FOLKS, again, the understanding -- historical, socioeconomic, about that "vicious circle", etc. -- that john, bernie, kiki, etc. lack simply CANNOT be imparted on this message board. So, again, please don't waste your time...That we find ways to foster such understanding among citizens in some kind of systematic way is absolutely critical to solving the social problems we face and their myriad, compounding ripple effects.

Feb. 09 2012 12:48 PM
DianaF from Bronx NY

Sonne, Bernie and John: I really don't think you know the community involved in this tragedy. Wakefield, the Bronx, on a residential street of small one, two and three family homes, landlords mostly live in the building, lots of working parents - many work locally in small shops in the neighborhood, in hospitals, for the City of NYC, etc. Many are first or second generation immigrants from the Caribbean esp Jamaica. Lots of small churches and church involvement. John, you are criminalizing an entire generation, so many young people of all demographics smoke marijuana - they don't deserve to die for it, killed by cops disrespecting the law!

Feb. 09 2012 12:05 PM
The Truth from Becky

John, John, John *smh* - in this Country, you still have the RIGHT not to be shot dead in your own home!

Feb. 09 2012 11:59 AM

John from office. Your correct about all these criminals out there and I would blame the parents for the most part, but does that still give a right for anybody to shoot a human being? Why did he shoot the kid, couldn't have he just arrested him? It seems to me that if you were a cop, you would be one of the bad ones. The ones that beat people for no reason, the ones that are coward enough to keep punching somebody in the face while they are handcuffed and no way to protect themselves. Why is it that they can put their hands on us to protect themselves when they feel threatened but we can't. You'll also be the one to spray pepper spray at people protesting on wall street for no reason either right? I'm not saying that all nypd officers are the same but I will say that more than 50% of them are corrupted.

Feb. 09 2012 11:45 AM
bernie from bklyn

all i'm saying is that it makes sense that cops are making mistakes in these situations more with black men than with white men NOT because they're racist cops but because the likelihood that a fleeing black man not adhering to the commands of a police officer is much,much more likely to be armed. and therefore the cop will go into kill or be killed mode and do something stupid like shooting an unarmed person in their own home..after situations like the one in bushwick last week, the one in east ny before that and so on and so on, it makes sense that cops are on edge. so who's to blame? and please don't use the phrase "men of color"'s moronic, we all have a color. we're all in this together, i'm checkin' everyone in my family. are you?

Feb. 09 2012 11:32 AM
Sonne Hernandez from LES

I think there is a major and to me obvious factor that nobody seems to see. The "vicious circle" on both the parts of the community and police culture. The community primarily poor, uneducated with broken families. Where is his mother's part? where was she? She was probably brought exactly the way she is bringing him up. Vicious circle. And now for the cops, cop culture, big egos and then Bloomberg culture of a making "quotas". Combine these elements and you got a vicious cirle. Cops get shot at by 15yr olds and they become numb to seeing a human being and start making up the rules as they go along to protect themselves. 15yr olds gets frisked going to school being profiled while the one with the gun walks by and you create another vicious circle of contempt.

Feb. 09 2012 11:25 AM
john from office

DianaF, I grew up in the hood and met this "victim" more then once. There is no parental guidance at home, these "children" are left to run wild, looking for someone to rob, sorry, try some other excuse for bad behavior.

Feb. 09 2012 11:16 AM
DianaF from Bronx NY

This news story is incomplete without a link to the video from the home's security cameras of Ramarley Graham walking in to his home and then the cops appearing with guns drawn to try to kick down the door. No sign of a warrant. This is not 'hot pursuit.' Rather, it looks to me like American soldiers storming an Iraqi insurgent hide-out. I wonder whether some or all of these cops are Iraq/Afghan war vets with undiagnosed PTSD? John, Julie, Kiki and Bernie: Don't comment on what you don't know! Walk down the block this kid lived on before you make assumptions about what the community looks and feels like. And didn't this happen in the mid-afternoon, after school is out and while parents are at work?

Feb. 09 2012 11:06 AM
john from office

Pablo, you never answered the question where are mami and papi, while junior is sell dope?? There is no social control, self control or morality in these kids. It is all about the benjamins, and showing your underwear for status.

Feb. 09 2012 10:36 AM
bernie from bklyn

@pablo alto-
you didn't understand what i wrote. of course people from my tribe (i'm PR) smoke pot and of course plenty of white people smoke pot, more than any other "tribe", actually....but the difference is that white kids are not running around in the streets with guns terrorizing everyone else. THAT"S the difference. it's not about who smokes pot or not....of course one doesn't deserve to be shot dead by the police if they have a couple ounces of weed on them.
if you don't admit and realize the facts of crime in this city and that young, black men who come from broken households are the predominant criminals in this city. this is a fact, not my opinion about the "others" has nothing to do with that. check yourself, check your community. do you think any of those protesters ever went to their child's parent-teacher meetings?

Feb. 09 2012 10:33 AM
Pablo Alto from da' Bronx

There is a stunning lack of empathy demonstrated by certain responses here. The idea that a young man who may or may not have been selling marijuana, should abdicate all of his rights and be served the the Death Penalty in his own home should be outrageous to every citizen. It is true that the police have a tough job, but there are any number of alternative strategies that could and should have been employed to arrest this young man.

John from office and Bernie from Brooklyn - The moment that you choose to define someone as 'Other', it allows you to dehumanize them and rationalize treatment that you would not accept for those in your own family or tribal group. I suspect there is a person within your circle of friends and acquaintances that smokes pot. They may be upstanding citizens in every way, but this choice which has few if any consequences for them. It can be deadly for a young man of color in NYC. This is a real problem that is not acknowledged in your snide and dismissive commentary.

Feb. 09 2012 10:24 AM
John from office

Maybe we will name a street after him, his mom will run for office and br awarded millions of dollars. It is the inner city lotto folks!!. All you need is to raise a criminal child!

Feb. 09 2012 10:10 AM
bernie from bklyn

some of these comments really highlight the root of the problem. excuses, excuses on all's hard to get the police to do anything impactful because of their constant concern over compstat numbers and when they do do something they go overboard.
BUT, that said, the reason why black kids will get shot by police more in these situations is because black kids in this city are the ones running around with guns at a shocking level. the % of white kids running around in the streets with guns is extremely low. sorry, but that's a fact. the police have to assume any black man running from the police has a gun because the %'s and reality says that.
and i always love the big protests after this stuff goes son was a great kid, never did anything wrong...yeah, right!!! where are all the protests for the white couple that was tied up, robbed, beaten and the boyfried forced to watch his girlfriend get raped in front of him in bed-stuy this week....not a peep, no screenprinted shirts, no marches, no demands for action. what if this happened to a young black couple living in howard beach? every news outlet would be there 24/7, sharpton would be there and there would be a cry for justice and lawsuits etc....

Feb. 09 2012 10:00 AM
kiki from NYC

The cops were doing the job that they were trained to do, to protect our safety, property and livestyle, and they risk their lives every day for us. This was a tragic mistake, but in the heat of a criminal pursuit, in a dangerous neighborhood, where people shoot police officers, the risks are high for everyone, including the kids who sell drugs on the corner. The outrage is the right emotion, but for the wrong reason. The police officer must feel tremendous grief over this, so do not make it out like he was the bad guy gunning down the innocent child. The outrage should be directed at the behavior of people in general that produces these situations.

Feb. 09 2012 09:42 AM
Julie from Texas

He should have been in school and not on the street's you only get away with that mess for so long before it catches up to you be smart. They must not know want happend to the Police officer that was shot in the head thank god he is okay that is why when the police officers have to protect themselves at all time's in a high crime area's like that people that run get crazy you never know what they might do.

Feb. 09 2012 09:39 AM
John from office

Fuva, what was he flushing down the toilet in a hurry, the bible??
Making excuses for bab behavior will relagate the "community" to a very dim future. I know, he was just standing there and the Nazi police just picked him to kill.

Feb. 09 2012 09:38 AM
fuva from Harlemworld

And just WHO SAID RAMARLEY WAS DEALING, anyway? Please. Don't let the NYPD plant false seeds in our heads. They are good at this...The claim seems inconsistent with facts presented: the timeframe, the amount of weed...

Feb. 09 2012 09:34 AM
John from office

The attitude of "So What He Was Dealing" is the problem. Maybe when adults lead the "community" and not teenagers, there will be progress. I want to see a march for the victims of black on black crime, stop blaming everyone else. I am not a Hater, just not blind to the obvious. Where was his mother when he was dealing??

Feb. 09 2012 09:33 AM
fuva from Harlemworld

VERY well put, Tasha.
But don't waste your breath on the haters. Not here anyway. The social, political, economic, historical and analytical education they require is way too much for the space provided.

Feb. 09 2012 09:20 AM
fuva from Harlemworld

Yes, Kate, it is definitely an outrage.
We must figure out how to effectively hold the NYPD accountable and, thereby, help them attain the credibility they require to effectively do their jobs...So they can be given the benefit of a doubt when they say something looked "like a gun" -- a claim they make with abandon and without independent corroboration...

Feb. 09 2012 09:12 AM
Tasha from Georgia

So what if he was dealing? That doesn't give the police the right to invade his home and gun him down for not being in college.
Maybe he could have gone, but his mom lost her $5/hour job and couldn't pay for it. My mistake...Black kids can't go to college. White kids have to buy their drugs from somebody! (sarcasm drips from her voice)

This is just retaliation for the "Stop & Frisk" backlash!

"We can't send them to we'll just kill them!"
Welcome to the Fifties!

Feb. 09 2012 09:07 AM
John from office

Sooo, what was our new hero flushing down the toilet. Did his mom know what he did for a living??, Was she ok with having a drug dealer for a son. Was the "victim" here on his way to college, trade school, or just another young criminal, on his way to Sing Sing?? I know I know, the police are to blame, my mistake.

Feb. 09 2012 07:38 AM
john from office

Kate, where was your outrage when a mom was killed by a gang member in brooklyn, in a gang shoot out??, Where was your outrage that a parent can know her child is a drug dealer, not in school, and hanging out doing crime. Where is your outrage that young "people of color" are killing each other each day over the color of their do rags. Where was your outrage when a young basket ball star is killed because she is from the wrong projects, by a person of "color".

You seem to save your outrage for the police, who are trying to keep a lid on massive criminality in the "community". Try asking why these kids are not in school, are not encouraged to improve themselves, not sell weed on the corner. And Please dont blame the white man, nor the police who are no longer just a bunch of white guys, but pretty well intergrated. Blame the parents of these criminals.

Feb. 09 2012 07:20 AM

Please follow the guidelines for commenting: stay on topic, be civil and brief.

Thank you.

Feb. 09 2012 06:50 AM
Kate from Washington Heights

I am sickened by this incident. It is incomprehensible to me that the officers would kill this young man - practically a child still - in his home in this murderous way based on almost nothing. It is an outrage.

Feb. 09 2012 01:28 AM

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