A judge threw out manslaughter charges on Wednesday against a New York Police Department officer accused of killing an unarmed suspect last year in a Bronx home - a ruling that prompted a courtroom outburst by the victim's mother and a vow by prosecutors to still pursue the case.
Constance Malcolm screamed "they killed my child" when it became clear that the judge was about to rule in favor of Officer Richard Haste. Court officers immediately removed her.
When order was restored, Judge Steven Barrett told spectators, "I regret that there are people who are hurt by this," but insisted that the law required him to dismiss the indictment.
As Haste left the courtroom, protesters yelled, "Murderer!" The officer did not speak to news reporters.
Haste had been charged in the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Ramarley Graham during a police operation targeting street-corner drug dealing. He and other officers pursued Graham into his Bronx apartment where the teen was shot at close range. No gun was recovered.
The judge ruled Wednesday that prosecutors, in giving instructions to grand jurors, had improperly left the impression the jury shouldn't consider evidence that other officers had radioed Haste in advance to warn him that they thought Graham had a gun. The defense claimed that was one of the reasons Haste used deadly force. Haste has said he believed Graham had a gun and was going to shoot him.
"If effect, the grand jury was told communications of other officers were not relevant," the judge said. "With not great pleasure, I'm obliged in this case to dismiss the charges."
The judge stressed that he didn't believe that prosecutors deliberately misled the grand jury and he wouldn't bar them from seeking another indictment.
Prosecutors said in a statement that they would either appeal the decision or present the case again to the grand jury.
"It cannot be said more forcefully that we disagree with the court," the statement said.
The Rev. Al Sharpton, who has worked with Graham's family, called the judge's decision "an outrageous miscarriage of justice and an insult to the family and supporters of Ramarley Graham."
But Patrick Lynch, president of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, said the judge's ruling was the right one.
"We believe the judge made a difficult but correct decision," Lynch said.