SUIT IN ’94 N.J. MALL KILLING — (Philadelphia Daily News)

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Philadelphia Daily News (PA)

October 9, 1996

Author: Gloria Campisi, Daily News Staff Writer[]

“There is no death penalty for shoplifting,” the lawyer said.    Margaret M. Grasso made the comment yesterday after filing a federal suit for the family of a suspected shoplifter shot to death two years ago at the Cherry Hill Mall by a police officer moonlighting as a security guard.

The suit, filed in Camden, alleges civil rights violations based on the use of excessive force.   The suit contends that the officer was untrained and under the influence of prescription drugs.   The estate of Robert Abraham is seeking unspecified damages from former Cherry Hill Police Officer Kimberly Raso, Cherry Hill Township, the operators of the Cherry Hill Mall and Macy’s.

Abraham had been shopping with another man at Macy’s before the Oct. 15, 1994, shooting.   Neither Raso, 35, nor any of the others named could immediatey be reached for comment.

Grasso said police reports at the time of the shooting indicate Raso was under the influence of the prescription medications Prozac, Xanax and Synthoid, a drug used to treat a thyroid condition.

Raso at the time told investigators she shot Abraham, 22, of 11th Street near Cambria, North Philadelphia, because she believed he was trying to run her down with his car in the mall parking lot as he was making a getaway.

Abraham was unarmed.   A Camden County grand jury later cleared Raso, an 11-year police officer, of criminal wrongdoing.

Grasso accused Cherry Hill and the private employers of establishing  “a system of ill-equipped, ill-trained officers” sometimes stressed and tired from moonlighting at other jobs, and placing in their hands the use of deadly force.

“This problem is compounded when the officer in question is under the influence of numerous medications,” the lawyer said.   The suit was filed by Abraham’s mother, Vanessa Abraham, as administrator of his estate and on behalf of his three children, Robert Christoper Abraham Jr., Labreea Von Abraham and Taquan Carey.

Alan L. Yatvin, another of the family’s attorneys, said that despite the passage of time, the Abrahams were  “still pretty shaken” and didn’t want to talk.

Other defendants named in the suit are the Cherry Hill Center Inc., which operates the mall, the Rouse Co. of New Jersey, which oversees Cherry Hill Center, and Macy’s East, operator of the Macy’s.

According to Raso’s account, Abraham jumped in his car and she ordered him to stop.  But, she said, he put the car in reverse and then sped forward.  She fired one shot that struck the driver’s side window and hit Abraham under the left arm. The bullet pierced vital organs.

Yatvin said a recent call to the Cherry Hill police indicated Raso did not work there any longer.  “As to the circumstances, whether she left voluntarily or not, we have no idea,” he said.

Copyright (c) 1996 Philadelphia Daily News
Record Number:  9610100192