NYPD Officer Richard Haste should be fired because he didn’t use sound “tactical judgment” when he shot and killed 18-year-old Ramarley Graham nearly five years ago during a drug operation in the Bronx, a department attorney argued Tuesday during the cop’s departmental trial.
In her opening statement, police lawyer Beth Douglas acknowledged that while Haste would never face criminal charges for Graham’s death on Feb. 2, 2012, he nonetheless should be kicked off the force because of “tactical failures” and mistakes that were his fault. She also noted that a police review board found the shooting to be justified but his tactics flawed.
If Deputy Commissioner for Trials Rosemarie Maldonado agrees with Douglas, she could recommend that NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill fire Haste. The case is the first high-profile department trial O’Neill will have to decide since he became commissioner in September.
Haste’s defense attorney Stuart London argued in his opening statement that his client was the only officer subject to a departmental trial despite lapses by other ranking cops.
London said Haste reasonably believed Graham was armed when the officer confronted him on the second floor of his Bronx home.
“Tactics should be judged not only by the outcome but by the reasonableness of the officer’s actions,” London said. He indicated to Maldonado that the case had political overtones and the NYPD was looking for a bureaucratic scapegoat in Graham’s death. Graham’s parents and friends attended Tuesday’s trial.
“Rather than politics we should let facts and circumstances rule,” London said.
Graham died after Haste shot him once in the chest during a confrontation inside the teenager’s home in the 700 block of East 229th Street.
Haste had followed Graham, under surveillance by a narcotics enforcement unit for possible marijuana dealing, to his home after other cops radioed their belief that the teenager — part of a group of three men — was carrying a handgun.
During interviews with investigators, Haste said Graham disregarded his repeated orders to “show his hands.” Graham went to his waistband, Haste said, leading him to think the teenager was armed. No gun was found on Graham, although investigators discovered a plastic gun in the backyard of the house. Cops recovered a small amount of marijuana in a toilet.
During testimony Tuesday, two of Haste’s fellow officers said they saw Graham fiddle with a handgun in his belt. They transmitted their observations over a police tactical radio used by the narcotics team.
“No doubt,” Det. Andrew Jervis said when asked by London’s co-counsel Michael Martinez if he thought he saw a gun in Graham’s waistband.
Haste was indicted on a charge of manslaughter in 2012 by a Bronx grand jury, but a state judge dismissed the case. Another grand jury then decided not to indict Haste, and federal prosecutors opted not to bring a civil rights case.
Haste is expected to testify Thursday. Outside court, Graham’s mother, Constance Malcolm, recounted the day of the shooting.
“He shot my son in front of his brother, 6 years old, and his grandmother,” she said of Haste. “He threatened to shoot my mom.”
The family settled a claim in 2015 against the city for nearly $4 million.
In an unrelated development, Mayor Bill de Blasio said if cops in the Eric Garner case aren’t charged federally, there will also be department trials.