An investigation has been launched into the death of Ramarley Graham, an unarmed 18 year old who died at the hands of the Narcotics Enforcement Unit. When asked about the circumstances of his death, New York City Police Commissioner Kelly admitted, ”At this juncture we see an unarmed person being shot.”
Officers from the Street Narcotics Enforcement Unit reported the teen was observed leaving a bodega in the Bronx where it was suspected that drugs were being sold. He was followed to a home where he entered and locked the door behind him. In a clear video, officers can be seen kicking in the door (breaking and entering) without a warrant.
Graham was shot in the bathroom of this home in the presence of his grandmother and younger brother. Police thought they saw a gun and fired on the teen. Later that day, Graham died at Montefiore Hospital. A gun was not found on the premises.
The Police Misconduct News Feed for the period 2/4/12 to 2/5/12 reported this video contradicts the police report that the teen had argued with them and then run away. On the contrary, the video shows the teen walked calmly to his house and that the police thereafter burst into the family home after repeatedly kicking the door. Damages to the door were also documented.
The Police Misconduct News Feed also reported the teen’s grandmother was taken against her will to the Police Precinct and held for 7 hours against her will. Her mistreatment is a separate possible lawsuit.
There is a long and fractious history, particularly in the black community, in response to a perceived propensity for cops to shoot unarmed black men. In the most recent history in the New York city area is the case of Sean Bell. 23-year-old Bell was shot in a hail of 50 bullets after leaving his bachelor party in November 2006. This became known as the ‘the fifty shot case.” Unarmed African immigrant Amadou Diallo was shot by police in 1999 to widespread disbelief regarding the circumstances. No one can forget the international case of Rodney King who was beaten on video by Los Angeles police in 1991 and became the poster child of police brutality.
These cases and tales from victims who have lived to tell their stories document such treatment by police that puts lives at risk at the hands of people whose duty is the people’s security. The nightmare of every mother of a black son is that they will be stopped by careless, unscrupulous or just plain nervous policemen unable to make a crucial judgment call that could result in the loss of innocent life. I know this feeling firsthand. And it has nothing to do with criminal activity, but rather a perception of guilt and distrust on the part of policemen.
Community activists have asked why two trained officers were unable to discern whether the teen was armed. Why aren’t officers trained to shoot suspects in their legs, arms, or shoulders rather than in their chest? ”This young teenager,” according to The Root, “made choices that should have landed him in a jail — not a box.” The scales of justice weigh heavily against longevity for young black males.
Photo courtesy of nrdsquash