White NYC officer awaits punishment in killing of black teen

AP News
|
Posted: Jan 23, 2017 5:00 PM

NEW YORK (AP) — The disciplinary trial of a white police officer who fatally shot an unarmed black teenager ended Monday, but his punishment probably won't be known for several weeks, if at all.

New York Police Department lawyers have sought to get Officer Richard Haste fired, saying he botched department tactics requiring him to take cover and call for backup in his pursuit of 18-year-old Ramarley Graham in 2012.

The officer's attorneys say he had good reason to think Graham was drawing a gun when he fired. No weapon was recovered.

At a public proceeding beginning last week at NYPD headquarters, an administrative judge heard evidence that included testimony from Haste. The judge will submit a written recommendation about whether the officer can remain on the force — all subject to final approval, reversal or change by the police commissioner.

It's likely the NYPD would confirm if Haste is ultimately fired. But lesser punishments resulting from such proceedings — whether an officer is reprimanded, docked pay or put on probation — and the reasoning behind any decisions are not disclosed.

The secrecy is the result of a state law protecting the privacy of officer disciplinary records, and a city decision last year to adhere to the confidentiality rules more closely. Police reform advocates have complained the move has put America's largest police force at odds with a national movement to make law enforcement more transparent.

Haste initially faced a criminal manslaughter charge in the death, which became another flashpoint for outrage over police use of deadly force against minorities. But the criminal case was dismissed because of a procedural error, and a new grand jury declined to indict. Federal prosecutors also declined to bring charges.

In his testimony, Haste recounted how he got out of his police van during a drug probe in Graham's Bronx neighborhood and followed the teenager, suspected on police radio chatter of having a gun, into his apartment building.

After Haste and his partner broke down the door of Graham's home, the officer said he saw Graham sidestep into a bathroom, and he leaned inside to face him.

Haste testified that he yelled, "Show me your hands!" but Graham instead reached deeper into his pants and yelled obscenities.

"I thought I was about to be shot," Haste said. "I expected to be dead."