New York – A white police officer who fatally shot an unarmed black teenager resigned Sunday from the New York Police Department to avoid being fired following a disciplinary trial in a case that sparked outrage over police use of deadly force against black men and boys.
Richard Haste was brought on departmental charges for demonstrating “poor judgment.” He was accused of not taking obvious steps to defuse a fatal standoff that ended in the 2012 death of Ramarley Graham inside the teen’s own bathroom, as his grandmother and little brother looked on in horror.
Administrative Judge Rosemarie Maldonado found on Friday that Haste should be fired from the department.
Technically, Haste had time to go over the findings before they would be presented to Police Commissioner James O’Neill, who has the final say, but Haste resigned instead.
The commissioner had not yet officially ruled, but “has fully concurred with the findings and recommendations of the trial commissioner,” according to a statement from the department late Sunday.
Haste initially faced a criminal manslaughter charge in the death, but the case was dismissed because of a procedural error.
A new grand jury declined to indict, and federal prosecutors also declined to bring charges.
“He was exonerated by both a state and federal grand jury,” said Haste’s lawyer, Stuart London. “The New York City Police Department Firearms Discharge Review Voard found the shooting to be justified. All of officer Haste’s actions were performed in good faith.
He never should have been forced to resign based on tactics alone.”
In his testimony during the departmental trial, Haste, now 35, 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.”
Graham’s family has settled a wrongful death lawsuit against the city for $3.9 million.