2 Cops suspended; Grand jury to investigate shooting to determine if officers should face criminal charges
NEW YORK, NY — In the wake of Thursday’s slaying of an unarmed teen by NYPD, discrepancies cloud accounts of the shooting which left 18 year old Ramarley Graham dead on the bathroom floor of his Bronx home. Gunned down in front of his grandmother, the only sign of any criminal wrongdoing on his part was a small baggie of marijuana floating in the toilet.
Initial accounts from officers was that Graham ran from police when they approached him on White Plains Road. Chased into his home, he was said to have struggled with an officer who fired a shot, hitting the 18 year old in the chest. But as the investigation continues, some crucial points in the account are being questioned.
Most notably, Graham’s grandmother, Patricia Hartley could prove to be a crucial eyewitness to the shooting. Hartley, 58, was in the home with her 6 year old grandson when Graham entered, followed by police officers. She ran behind the cops as they chased Graham into the bathroom, and said that police threw her to the ground and stuck a gun in her face moments after the fatal gunshot was fired.
Little is known of precisely what Ms. Hartley saw of the incident, but her treatment by the police in the hours after her grandson was killed could become a sticking point in the investigation.
Hartley, although at best a witness to the slaying, was taken by NYPD to the Bronx precinct stationhouse and kept away from family, friends and a lawyer, and was held for over seven hours.
During that time, Ms. Hartley was forced to give a statement about what happened. “She gave it against her will,” said Carlton Berkley, a family friend and retired NYPD officer. “She didn’t want to speak to the police.”
The grieving grandmother was also denied access to her heart medication, said Assemblyman Eric Stevenson (D-Bronx), who helped win her release from the 47th Precinct stationhouse.
“I asked the district attorney a simple question: ‘Is this woman being held against her will?’ ” Stevenson said Saturday. “Within 10 minutes, she was released.”
Steven Reed, a spokesman for Bronx District Attorney Robert T. Johnson, said Ms. Hartley “made no complaint” to an assistant district attorney who was at the police station.
“If the nature of Mrs. Hartley’s complaint is true, it would be highly insensitive,” said Reed. “Nobody should be forced to give a statement, let alone someone who had just lost a grandson in the way that Mrs. Hartley did.”
At a press conference Friday, police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said he was unaware of any problems regarding Ms. Hartley’s treatment or if she had faced overly aggressive questioning.
“Obviously, it is a very, very traumatic situation for the grandmother,” Kelly said. “She was present when this happened, and she certainly should have been shown a sensitivity to that issue. I would hope that she was. If not — I didn’t hear about that complaint — but if that’s the case, we’ll certainly investigate.”
“We’re obviously trying to get the facts,” Commissioner Kelly said. “A young man’s life was taken. … It’s the worst thing that can happen to a parent – to lose a child.”
Asked about the initial report of a struggle, Kelly said the account of the shooting was revised after investigators interviewed the second officer and the grandmother, but stopped short of declaring the shooting unjustified, saying: “At this juncture, we see an unarmed person being shot. That always concerns us.”
The New York Police Department is investigating the death, and have stripped Officer Richard Haste, who fired the fatal bullet, of his gun and placed him on “restrictive duty” pending the investigation. His supervisor, Sargent Scott Morris, who was in a stairwell between the first and second floors of the home when the fatal shot was fired, has also been placed on restrictive duty.
A grand jury is expected to investigate the shooting to determine if the officers should face criminal charges.
The scene outside Graham’s home on Friday was tense. As the police re-entered the three-family house to execute a search warrant, one bystander on the street yelled, “You killed him because he smoked weed!” Later, dozens of people began shouting toward the officers inside. “Murderers!” many yelled.