Attorney General James’ Office of Special Investigation Releases Report on Death of Rameek Smith

NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Letitia James’ Office of Special Investigation (OSI) today released its report on the death of Rameek Smith, who died on May 10, 2022 in the Bronx. Following a thorough investigation, which included review of body-worn camera footage, interviews with witnesses, ballistic testing, and evidence from the scene, OSI concluded that a prosecutor would not be able to disprove beyond a reasonable doubt at trial that the officer who shot Mr. Smith was justified. 

On the evening of May 10, 2022, two New York City Police Department (NYPD) officers were patrolling in the Bronx when they spotted Mr. Smith walking on Third Avenue with what appeared to be a gun by his waist. The officers stopped the patrol car and attempted to engage Mr. Smith, but he ran away. One officer pursued him on foot while the other officer followed in the patrol car. The pursuit ended on Bathgate Avenue when Mr. Smith fired his gun and injured the officer who was chasing him on foot. Mr. Smith then began to run across the street in front of the patrol car. As Mr. Smith pointed the gun in the direction of the patrol car and the driving officer, the officer stopped the car, got out, and fired his service weapon, striking Mr. Smith. Mr. Smith was taken to a local hospital, where he later died. Officers recovered a gun at the scene.

Under New York’s justification law, a person may use deadly physical force to defend against the imminent use of deadly physical force by another person. When the defense of justification is raised at trial, the prosecution must disprove justification beyond a reasonable doubt. In this case, Mr. Smith had just shot and wounded an officer, and then pointed the gun at another officer. Under these circumstances, based on the law and the evidence, a prosecutor would not be able to disprove beyond a reasonable doubt that the officer who fired was justified, and OSI determined that criminal charges could not be pursued against the officer.