Family members of an unarmed black teenager killed by a white NYPD officer four years ago this week held an all-night vigil Tuesday night outside the local office of the U.S. Department of Justice.
The family of Ramarley Graham and their supporters picketed outside the federal event all night to demand justice for the 18-year-old, who was shot once in the bathroom of his Bronx home by an officer who had barged inside during a drug investigation.
The vigil goers slept on the steps of the Justice Department, bundling up in sleeping bags to stay warm. Earlier Tuesday night dozens of people sang music and demanded justice for Graham and other people killed by police.
The teen's mother, Constance Malcolm, was at the vigil. She said that she came to the steps of the Justice Department to make her voice heard.
"We really mean business. We want some answers. This office is the last place that can give us answers as to why my son is dead," Malcolm said.
Earlier this week, Malcolm and the teen's father, Franclot Graham, said in their letter to Mayor de Blasio and his wife, Chirlane McCray, that they wanted the officer fired.
"Four years have passed, and there has been no explanation, no justice, no morality, and thus no sense of legitimacy," said the letter, according to a copy obtained by The Associated Press. "It is sickening for any penny of our tax dollars — or any New Yorkers' for that matter — to be received by any of the officers who were responsible for the murder of our son, and the cover-up."
Last year, the family settled a civil lawsuit against the city for $3.9 million.
The officer who shot Graham, Richard Haste, was initially indicted in the Bronx on a state manslaughter charge but a judge dismissed the case after determining prosecutors improperly instructed grand jurors. A new grand jury cleared the officer.
After the shooting, Haste was stripped of his badge and gun and assigned to the department's fleet services division, officials said, but an internal disciplinary proceeding against him has been on hold pending the outcome of a federal investigation. In that time, Haste has received raises guaranteed by his union contract.
Haste has said in a court filing that he fired because he believed Graham had a gun and was about to shoot. No weapon was ever found.
"We are a nation and city of laws where justice demands that an individual is innocent unless proven guilty in a court of law," said Patrick Lynch, president of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, which represents Haste. "Regardless of the facts in this case, a family lost a loved one and they have our sympathy, but grief and emotion can never override due process."
In New York, the mayor doesn't have the power to summarily fire police officers. Disciplinary matters are adjudicated in an internal police process and the commissioner has the ultimate say in an officer's fate.