published: 14 June 2017
At the close of the last century, the New York City Police Department switched from full-metal-jacket bullets to hollow points. It was a move meant to spare lives — in theory, anyway.
The old bullets had a tendency to pass through their targets and endanger bystanders, while hollow points expand after impact, inflicting greater damage to internal organs but also increasing the likelihood that the bullet will slow to a halt inside the body.
And so, on February 2, 2012, when Officer Richard Haste shot 18-year-old Ramarley Graham — who was unarmed, standing in his own bathroom — the hollow-point bullet did just that. Less than a millisecond after being fired, the Speer Gold Dot 9-mm round struck Graham’s chest and blossomed as it bore a jagged tunnel through his aorta, trachea, and right lung. Seconds later, Graham was all but dead, facedown on the tile floor.
There was no video. The NYPD offered a tidy and by-now-familiar explanation: A police officer thought a young, unarmed black man had a gun and, fearing for his life, made a fatal miscalculation. A thorough investigation would follow, the police said.