Family of Unarmed Youth Killed by NYPD Reportedly Harassed by Cops
DNAinfo is reporting that the family of eighteen-year-old Ramarley Graham, who was unarmed when the NYPD shot him dead in his home last month, was previously harassed by the NYPD. Those close to the Grahams do not appear to believe the events are related, but see them as evidence of the widespread consequences aggressive policing wreaks on their communities. Last month, I reported that two weeks before Graham was killed, his cousin witnessed the NYPD's widely-publicized beating of his friend, Jateik Reed, and was roughed-up with the Reed family when they went to the precinct to inquire about Jateik. Taken together, one family's connection to multiple instances of police abuse paints a grim portrait of what it is like to be a young black youth living in the Bronx, constantly under the thumb of the cops.
According to DNA info, community leaders advised the Graham family to flee the local police and move from Harlem to the Bronx just months before Graham was killed, but his death was not the first time the Grahams were victims of police brutality:
On July 25, 2010, a police cruiser pulled up outside the Harlem home of Ramarley Graham's father, Franclot Graham, who lived with Ramarley's stepmother, four brothers, and grandmother at 131st Street. Ramarley, who was not present, lived in the Bronx with his mother, Constance Malcolm.
The boys' grandmother tried to usher the teens inside. Then all hell broke loose.
The teens said they were beaten, maced and knocked unconscious, according to a civil lawsuit filed against the the city and officers from the 32nd precinct. Officers used batons and mace to enter their apartment without a warrant, they claimed.
The Harlem community alleged that the incident was part of a pattern of harassment against the family and held a meeting at the Nation of Islam's No. 7 Mosque to address the issue.
"My suggestion to them was to move out of Harlem to the Bronx," said Royce Russell, the attorney representing the three men in the civil suit. "I gave them that suggestion four months ago — before Ramarley Graham was killed."
DNA info repots that the community worried about Franciot Graham's twin sons, and their criminal and gang involvement, but wanted a resolution. One local organizer told DNA info, "Community members said if they are involved with a crime, just arrest them, but stop harassing them."
According to DNA info:
In November 2011, Franclot Graham's twin sons were arrested and charged with being part of a violent, gun toting gang that terrorized the neighborhood around 129th Street and Lenox and Fifth avenues.
The gang allegedly brought in guns, including assault weapons such as a Chinese SKS semiautomatic assault rifle, and used them in shootings, according to the Manhattan District Attorney's office.
Hodean Graham, 18, known as "Gotti Twin," was charged with attempted murder, assault, weapons possession and conspiracy. His twin brother Kadean, also known as "Gotti Twin," was charged with weapons possession and conspiracy.
Community leaders told DNA info that, in the years before the arrests, Franciot Graham expressed serious concern about his sons and neighborhood violence, and participated in local anti-violence efforts.
"Our community should not be terrorized by anyone, whether police or gun toters," Iesha Sekou of Street Corner Resources told DNA info, adding "The death of young people in our community should not be commonplace."
Stop-and-frisk and aggressive policing create a culture for police brutality, but they also create communities that do not trust the police, where fighting violence and crime may be more difficult. As I recently reported, extensive interviews with Jateik Reed's neighbors reveal a culture of regular police harassment. Teenagers in the Bronx neighborhood say the police stop-and-frisk them almost daily -- even reaching their hands down their pants -- and regularly arrest them for crimes as trivial as trespassing in their own buildings. Witnesses sayReed was beaten during a stop-and-frisk, and because police were pursuing Graham for a small amount of marijuana, many have linked the NYPD's marijuana arrest crusade, and its close relationship to stop-and-frisk, to his death as well.