Advocates call for special prosecutor when police kill NYers

ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – Families of loved ones who have died at the hands of police met with Governor Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday to call for change in how these types of deaths are investigated.

The day started with formerly incarcerated youth and their family members sharing their stories and calling for changes to the criminal justice system as part of a push to raise the criminal age of responsibility in the state. It’s called the Raise the Age bill, which Cuomo pushed for in the state budget.

Currently, New York is only one of two states that automatically prosecute 16 and 17 year olds as adults. The advocates said teenagers are more likely to face physical and mental abuse and reoffend.

Advocate Alicia Barraza put a face to the issue. Barraza said her son didn’t know his rights and was sent to prison where he took his own life.

“It’s important that we make this change to prevent these kinds of tragedies from happening again,” she said. “And because – he was very intelligent; he had a lot of potential. But he just never made it out of prison.”

In addition, several families who have had family members killed by police came to the Capitol to have their voices heard.

Eric Garner died in July 2014 when he was placed into a chokehold by police on Staten Island. His mother Gwen Carr came to Albany on Tuesday.

“We need a level playing field, and we don’t have it,” she said.

The families who came to the Capitol said the officers involved need to be held accountable.

“Where is the justice?” Carr said. “My son said he couldn’t 11…11 times he said he couldn’t breathe. But the disconcerted officer, he chose to take my son’s life.”

A grand jury chose not to indict the officer involved in Garner’s case. It sparked protests across the country, including the Capital Region. The families are now calling on Cuomo to use an executive order that would ensure a special prosecutor handles the cases.

“The police, the DA, they’re in bed together, so they can’t do anything for us,” Carr said.

Yul-Sam Lien is part of the Justice Committee.

“They attorney general has actually supported this call,” she said. “In December, he came out and actually asked for the governor to give his office special prosecutorial power in these cases. The governor hasn’t said anything because we haven’t had the chance to meet him.”

The families said they set up three different meetings with the governor, and they said he cancelled all of them. That’s why they came to the Capitol and held a press conference outside his office.

Cuomo decided to meet with them after the event.

“All of us share the same pain here today,” Constance Malcolm said. “All of us. We have one thing in common. We don’t want another mother in this boat. It’s full.”

Malcom said her 18-year-old son Ramarley Graham was shot and killed by an NYPD officer in 2012 in front of her family.

The families said the meeting was positive, but they said he still supports an independent monitor.

An independent monitor would go into effect after a grand jury decides not to indict.

The meeting comes just 24 hours after Baltimore delved into chaos involving widespread rioting following the death of a black man in police custody.

“It’s very sad to see the city burning like that,” Carr said. “But sometimes people get frustrated that they say enough is enough.”

The group said if the governor’s plan doesn’t make it through the legislature in the next two months, he’d be open to the executive order. He told them he’d meet with them again in a month.

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