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Eighteen months after a police officer fatally shot an unarmed teenager in the bathroom of his home in the Bronx, the criminal case against the officer has collapsed, as a grand jury declined to bring criminal charges in the case, officials said on Thursday.

The decision was met with shock from the district attorney in the Bronx, Robert T. Johnson, and it spurred calls for a federal civil rights investigation and an independent prosecutor. Later on Thursday, the United States attorney’s office in Manhattan said that it would review the evidence in the case to “determine whether there were any violations of the federal criminal civil rights laws.”

Nonetheless, the grand jury decision roiled anger and racial tensions among supporters and relatives of the shooting victim, Ramarley Graham, 18.

Those tensions had been largely calmed after the officer, Richard Haste, was initially indicted last year on manslaughter charges. But a judge dismissed the indictment in May, saying prosecutors had improperly precluded the grand jury from considering Officer Haste’s claim that he believed Mr. Graham was armed, based on what he had heard fellow officers say over a police radio. Mr. Graham was black; the officer is white.

The judge’s ruling allowed prosecutors to present the case anew to a grand jury. On Tuesday, Officer Haste testified before the panel, telling grand jurors that he had repeatedly directed Mr. Graham to “show me your hands,” according to the officer’s lawyer, Stuart London.

Mr. London acknowledged that “it was surprising” for a grand jury in the Bronx to vote against prosecuting an officer after such a shooting. “The grand jury should be commended for the courage they had in the face of such a tragedy to keep an open mind and allow my client to tell his side of the story,” he said.

District Attorney Johnson said: “We are surprised and shocked by the grand jury’s finding of no criminal liability in the death of Ramarley Graham. We are saddened for the family of the deceased young man and still believe that the court’s dismissal of the original indictment was overly cautious.”

Seriously America, what is up with your relentless war on unarmed black men? When did the memo go out that it was okay to act out on historic fear of black men with deadly force?

Originally posted to FiredUpInCA on Thu Aug 08, 2013 at 04:32 PM PDT.

Also republished by Police Accountability Group.

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