One Police Plaza

A Haste Decision: Will It Be Political?

January 9, 2017

An internal police report on the 2012 shooting death of Ramarley Graham does not place the major burden of guilt on Officer Richard Haste, who shot the unarmed teenager in the bathroom of his Bronx apartment. Instead, the report blames the sergeant at the scene for failing to stop Haste from rushing pell-mell into the apartment building before backup arrived, NYPD Confidential has learned.

The report, which has never been made public, was written in 2014 by then-Chief of Department Philip Banks, who chaired an ad-hoc group of high-ranking police officials, known as the Firearms Discharge Review Board. While criticizing Haste for tactical mistakes, the board recommended only minor discipline, police sources said.

But when Banks presented the findings to then-Commissioner Bill Bratton, Bratton asked Banks to change his conclusions and to place the onus on Haste, said the police sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity. Banks refused to change the report, the sources said.

What impact, if any, the report could have on Haste’s upcoming departmental trial remains unclear. It does suggest that politics can influence police decisions, especially in a racially charged case.

A person with knowledge of Haste’s case put it this way: “No matter what the report says, they’re going to fire him anyway.”

Bratton did not return phone calls or an email seeking comment. Nor did he respond after a visit to his office.

Banks, who retired at the end of 2014 amid controversy after Bratton promoted him to first deputy, said he was “busy golfing and fishing. I am retired. Leave me alone.”

 Department spokesman Stephen Davis declined to comment, citing Haste’s upcoming department trial, which is scheduled to start Jan. 17.

Haste’s is one of two controversial cases involving the deaths of unarmed black civilians at the hands of white officers that continue to dog the NYPD. The second case is the “chokehold” death of Eric Garner in Staten Island involving Officer Michael Pantaleo in 2014. A Staten Island grand jury declined to indict him on criminal charges. Two and a half years later, the Justice Department has yet to decide whether to indict Pantaleo on civil rights charges.

 In Haste’s case, a Bronx grand jury indicted him in Graham’s death. However, a judge dismissed the 2012 indictment on a technicality. A second grand jury chose not to indict him, and federal prosecutors declined to indict him on civil rights violations. 

Graham’s shooting occurred after he fled police, who had attempted to arrest him for marijuana possession. As Haste pursued him, he was told by another officer, whose claim was broadcast over police radio, that Graham had a gun. According to police, Haste pursued Graham into his apartment building and chased him into his own apartment where Graham reportedly flushed the marijuana down the toilet. He then turned toward Haste, who had just entered the apartment. Believing Graham had a gun, Haste fired and killed him. Graham had no gun.


Copyright © 2017 Leonard Levitt