Family of teen shot dead by NYPD pursue lawsuit

Ramarley Graham's family brings latest suit to criticize police training and racial targeting in stop-and-frisks

By Natasha Lennard

Published February 4, 2013 7:20PM (EST)

    (Shutterstock/ SVLuma)
(Shutterstock/ SVLuma)

Another lawsuit has been filed to take aim at the NYPD's stop-and-frisk policy. In this particular suit, anger toward the police practice and its effects is born of personal tragedy. The family of Ramarley Graham, an unarmed teenager who was shot dead in his Bronx bathroom by police exactly one year ago, are suing the police, accusing the department of poor officer training and disproportionately targeting minority youths with stops.

Writing in the Guardian, Ryan Devereaux details the contents of the Graham family lawsuit:

At over 100 pages in length, the Graham family lawsuit paints a picture of a chaotic scene the afternoon Ramarley was killed. It alleges that after forcing his way into the Graham home, Haste shot the unarmed teenager in the chest in his bathroom, as his six-year-old brother and 58-year-old grandmother, Patricia Hartley, looked on.

"Why did you shoot him, why you killed him?" Hartley cried out after Haste fired, the suit claims. "Get the fuck away before I have to shoot you, too," Haste is said to have replied as he shoved Graham's 85-pound grandmother into a vase, the suit alleges.

The suit names as defendants Richard Haste, the (now former) police officer responsible for shooting Graham, as well as NYPD commissioner Ray Kelly and a number of other officers. Haste has pleaded not guilty to charges of first- and second-degree manslaughter. Meanwhile, the Graham family's civil suit does not specify damages but does call for an overhaul of training practices for street narcotics enforcement units (SNEU). Devereaux notes, "Haste was a member of one such unit, which scans streets for suspected illegal drug activity, but had not participated in the required training for the assignment, reports later revealed."

The Grahams' is not the first suit in recent months to finger police training as being at fault when it comes to street searches. A federal judge on Jan. 8 ruled in favor of a suit brought by the NYCLU that stop-and-frisks outside Bronx Clean Halls buildings were unconstitutional and noted, "The evidence of numerous unlawful stops at the hearing strengthens the conclusion that the NYPD’s inaccurate training has taught officers the following lesson: stop and question first, develop suspicions later.”

In the case of Ramarley Graham, according to surveillance footage, the 18-year-old was chased by narcotics police into his own home and shot at close range. On Saturday, hundreds of people marched to a Bronx police precinct to mark the first anniversary of Graham’s death, which last year galvanized the growing fight against racist stop-and-frisk practices.

Natasha Lennard

Natasha Lennard is an assistant news editor at Salon, covering non-electoral politics, general news and rabble-rousing. Follow her on Twitter @natashalennard, email

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Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Bronx Nypd Police Police Brutality Ramarley Graham Stop-and-frisk