(NEW YORK) MintPress — Tensions are growing between the NYPD and the New York City community of an unarmed teenager who was shot and killed by police. 18-year-old Ramarley Graham was gunned down last Thursday inside the bathroom of his apartment in the Bronx, the northern most of the city’s five boroughs.
A newly released surveillance video shows Graham walking calmly into his home seconds before police arrived, circled the building and kicked in a door. That is contrary to police statements that he was running from them and into the building.
“Police are going to allege they had reasonable suspicion to believe he possessed a weapon, which is false. They will say they were in hot pursuit and never lost site of him,” a lawyer for Graham’s family, Jeffrey Emdin, tells MintPress. Shortly after the shooting, the NYPD said there was a supporting video showing a man in a white shirt being chased by those police. “That was not Ramarley Graham,” claims Emdin.
Complicating matters further, the landlord said that after the shooting, police came upstairs and asked if anyone was there, leading Emdin to believe they were looking for the man in white. “The police have come out and made statements which they have had to retract,” he says. Among them is a claim that one of the officers screamed “Show me your hands, show me your hands” and “Gun, gun” before shooting Graham in the chest.
Police found a small amount of marijuana in the toilet but no weapons on Graham or in the home. At a news conference the next day, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said, “At this juncture, we see an unarmed person being shot. That always concerns us.”
It was, in fact, the third time in a week that a NYPD officer had shot and killed an individual. On Jan. 26, an off-duty police lieutenant shot a 22-year-old carjacking suspect in an ethnically diverse neighborhood in the borough of Brooklyn. Four days later, in a largely Hispanic community nearby, an off-duty detective shot a 17-year-old who tried to rob him.
Earlier this week, hundreds of people gathered for a candlelight vigil outside Graham’s home. A makeshift memorial of candles and flowers outside the family’s apartment building included more than half a dozen signs scrawled with anti-NYPD slogans. “Blood is on your shoulders NYPD Killer!!” read one poster.
The crowd later marched to the local police station, chiding the officers posted outside, at times comparing them to members of the Ku Klux Klan, chanting “NYPD-KKK.” Graham’s older sister, Leona Virgo, spoke to the protesters, saying “This is not just about Ramarly. This is about all young black men.”
“Stop and frisk” under fire
The NYPD is facing heat not only for shooting Graham, though, but also for its broader “stop and frisk” policy, which critics say targets both African Americans and Hispanics.
According to the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) in the past few years the NYPD has stopped and frisked New Yorkers without reasonable suspicion and engaged in a pattern of unconstitutional stops, mostly in minority neighborhoods. The main factor for determining who gets stopped, maintains the CCR, is race. The group has filed a federal class action lawsuit against the NYPD to challenge stop and frisks.
Meanwhile, the NYPD says it is reviewing a copy of the latest surveillance video of Ramarly Graham and will investigate.
The shooting is also being investigated by the Bronx District Attorney, Robert T. Johnson, the first African-American District Attorney in the history of New York State. It is likely to be presented to a grand jury to determine if a crime was committed.
If so, argues Emdin, the lawyer, there needs to be ramifications.
“Police are not above the law. They can’t condone this or ignore it. It is happening all too often and becoming systemic,” he says. He and many who oppose racial profiling and the use of excessive force by the NYPD insist there needs to be additional officer training and federal oversight.
“That needs to be done now,” says Emdin, “before another tragedy strikes.”