Emotions over police tactics spilled onto Bronx streets Wednesday as NYPD Officer Richard Haste walked out of court after posting $50,000 bail on manslaughter charges in the shooting death of an unarmed teen in February.
Haste, 31, who has been on the force four years and was assigned to a street narcotics unit, pleaded not guilty before Bronx State Supreme Court Judge Martin Marcus after surrendering to prosecutors earlier in the morning.
He walked out the front door of the courthouse on 161st Street with crutches because of a motorcycle accident. As he made his way slowly to a car, Haste was jeered with chants of "NYPD -- KKK -- How many kids did you kill today" from about 50 demonstrators angered by the circumstances surrounding the death of Ramarley Graham, 18.
In court just minutes earlier, Assistant District Attorney Donald Levin described to Marcus prosecutors' version of how Haste chased Graham into his home on Feb. 2, broke down the door and then came face-to-face with the teenager in the bathroom. It was during that confrontation that Haste fired once, killing Graham, investigators said.
Graham's family, accompanied by the Rev. Al Sharpton, sat in the courtroom for the brief arraignment, as did some off-duty police officers. Graham's father, Franclott Graham, sobbed as the teen's mother, Constance, shook her head in grief as the shooting was described in court.
Haste's lawyer, Stuart London, said his client had no choice but to shoot, saying the officer had asked Graham three times to "show his hands" before he fired.
"It was a split-second decision," London told Marcus, adding that Haste had received two transmissions from his partners saying they saw Graham with a gun.
"Here we have a police officer giving an order and if that order was followed you wouldn't be here today," said Patrolemen's Benevolent Association head Patrick Lynch.
At a news conference after the court appearance, Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson said the fact that Graham had no gun on him indicated Haste's use of deadly force wasn't a reasonable response.
New York's self-defense law generally allows police to use deadly force when making an arrest if the officer "reasonably believes" a suspect is about to use deadly force.
Outside the courthouse, Franclott Graham broke down into tears again. "Haste is going home to his family. When we leave here, we're going to the cemetery," Graham said. "I keep asking, why, why, why did he kill our son? Why, why, why did he kill our son? Eighteen years old, he did nothing to deserve this."
If convicted on first-degree manslaughter, Haste faces a maximum sentence of up to 25 years in prison. If Haste is found guilty to second-degree manslaughter he faces up to 15 years.
With Maria Alvarez and AP