PUBLISHED: 15:51 EST, 13 June 2012 | UPDATED: 16:54 EST, 13 June 2012
- Parents of slain teen Ramarley Graham cried in court today as NYPD officer who shot him pleaded not guilty
- Richard Haste, 31, charged with manslaughter for fatal February 2nd narcotics raid
- Other NYPD officers cheered for Haste as he exited courthouse
- Rev. Al Sharpton was at Bronx Criminal Court to show support for family
- Haste free on $50,000 bail
An NYPD cop charged with gunning down an unarmed teenager in the Bronx pleaded not guilty in court today, eliciting cheers from his brethren in blue, but tears from the teen’s parents.
New York Police Department Officer Richard Haste, 31, surrendered Wednesday morning and pleaded not guilty to manslaughter charges in a courtroom filled with other officers, relatives of 18-year-old victim Ramarley Graham, and their supporters.
Graham was killed during a February 2 narcotics raid in the Wakefield neighbourhood of the Bronx.
Haste thought Graham had a gun, and shot him in front of his grandmother and little brother as he tried to flush marijuana down the toilet, officials said.
Applause: Richard Haste is applauded as he leaves the court in New York on Wednesday
Supporters try to block photographers from taking pictures as New York City Police Dept. officer Richard Haste, center, gets in a car after posting bail in New York
Anguish: Constance Malcolm, left, and Frank Graham, right, parents of 18-year-old Ramarley Graham cry as they attend the arraignment of NYPD officer Richard Haste
Moment of grief: Haste pleaded not guilty to charges of first- and second-degree manslaughter for the February shooting in the death of 18-year-old Graham
Not guilty: NYPD officer Richard Haste (centre, left) flanked by his lawyers Stuart London, (left) and Michael Martinez, (centre, right) plead not guilty
The scene at Bronx Criminal Court was a dramatic one, as Haste, wearing a dark grey suit and tie and on crutches, uttered only two words: ‘Not guilty,’ according to the New York Daily News.
‘Ramarley was only 18,’ his mother, Constance Malcolm, said outside court. ‘We have too much of this going on and it has to stop. We need it to stop. We can’t keep killing our kids. It has to stop. Something has to come out of this.’
She then pleaded: ‘Help me get justice for my son.’
As Haste left the courtroom after posting $50,000 bail, dozens of officers applauded him. He was on crutches because of an unrelated accident and walked slowly to a car, while a small group of protesters chanted anti-police slogans behind him.
The February shooting stemmed from an NYPD investigation of a persistent drug trade in the Bronx neighbourhood where Graham lived. At the time, police said investigators identified Graham as a potential suspect and radioed to other officers that he appeared to be armed with a pistol.
Day in court: Haste, left, was on crutches from an unrelated incident; right, Judge Martin Marcus, who is presiding over the case, set bail at $50,000
A witness told police that around the same time, two officers wearing NYPD jackets pulled up and yelled at a man – apparently Graham – ‘Police! Don’t move!’
After the man ducked into Graham’s three-family home, the officers found a back entrance, climbed some stairs and broke down the door to a second-floor apartment where Graham lived with his grandmother and other relatives, police said.
An officer positioned behind Haste reported seeing Graham run toward a bathroom. He also heard Haste yell, ‘Show me your hands!’ and ‘Gun! Gun!’ before a shot rang out, police said.
Crammed together in the tiny bathroom, Haste yelled for Graham to hold up his hands, and when the teen reached for his waistband, the officer fired, according to his lawyer, Stuart London.
‘I thought he was going to shoot me, so I shot him,’ Haste said in a court statement read by Mr London.
Haste fired one shot at close range from his 9 mm semiautomatic handgun, police said. Graham was struck in the upper chest and collapsed in the bathroom. He was pronounced dead at a hospital.
Unarmed: Ramarley Graham, 18, was shot and killed at his Bronx home in February by an NYPD officer
Officials said Graham was trying to flush a small amount of marijuana down the toilet as Haste approached
A search of the apartment didn’t turn up any weapons. Police said they found marijuana in the toilet.
Officers are allowed to use deadly force when they have a reasonable belief that they are facing an imminent threat of serious injury or death.
But in the small Bronx bathroom, it was obvious there was no gun, and Haste should not have fired, District Attorney Robert Johnson said.
‘We have too much of this going on and it has to stop. We need it to stop. We can’t keep killing our kids. It has to stop. Something has to come out of this.’
‘He had to know that he did not see a gun,’ he said.
However, Mr London said that Haste, who graduated from Lehman High School, had never before fired his gun in the line of duty in four years of service, according to the New York Post.
‘When he woke up that morning, he had no intention of firing his weapon,’ Mr London told the Post.
The family has said Graham was shot as his grandmother and his 6-year-old brother looked on.
Outside court Wednesday, a large group of supporters said they are holding vigils every Thursday in the Bronx for 18 weeks to celebrate the teen’s life.
His father, Frank Malcolm, broke down weeping when he said the boy wouldn’t be home for Father’s Day this weekend.
Plea for peace: Outside of court, Constance Malcolm pleaded ‘We have too much of this going on and it has to stop. We can’t keep killing our kids’
Pause: The teen’s father Frank takes a moment to close his eyes as Ramarley’s mother looks out over the press
‘Haste is going home to his family. When we leave here we’re going to the cemetery,’ he said. ‘I keep asking why. Why did he kill our son? Why, why, did he kill our son? 18 years old. 18. He did nothing to deserve this.’
Police Commissioner Ray Kelly ordered a review of whether training and tactics were sufficient in the street narcotics division, where Haste worked.
The division differs from full-time narcotics police, who are more specialized. Haste had been on the force for four years and in the unit just weeks before the shooting. He had never before fired his weapon in the line of duty.
Kelly said some adjustments were made to the unit after the review.
An order was put out codifying requirements officers needed to meet before going into the unit, but he didn’t specify what the changes were.
Support: The Rev. Al Sharpton, left of centre, puts an arm on the back of Constance Malcolm after the arraignment as she wipes away tears
Outside the courthouse Wednesday, police union president Patrick Lynch said he respected the Graham family’s grief but called it a tragedy resulting from a difficult situation.
‘Today, we’re here to show support for a New York City police officer who was put in a terrible position doing a difficult job,’ Lynch said as the protesters chanted, ‘NYPD. KKK. How many kids will you kill today?’
Supporters of Graham’s family said they worry officers were expecting trouble simply because Graham was black. They also say Haste, who is white, used excessive force.
‘We’re not looking for revenge. We’re looking for justice,’ the Rev. Al Sharpton, a family supporter, said afterward.