NYPD Shooting Of Unarmed Man Ruled A Homicide, Brooklyn D.A. Launches Probe

November 24, 2014 | Rhett Jones

Akai Gurley, 28, was shot and killed by a rookie cop while descending the unlit staircase of East New York’s Pink Houses on November 20th. He was unarmed.

According to Gurley’s female companion, Melissa Butler, the two residents decided to take the staircase after the elevator had taken too long to arrive. When the couple reached the 7th floor, Gurley was shot in the torso by probational officer Peter Liang, a member of the NYPD who has only been on the force for 18 months. Liang is reported to have been patrolling the stairwell with fellow rookie, Shaun Landau.

A source told the Daily News that Liang probably had his gun drawn from its holster — a violation of police protocol. Another unidentified police source told the New York Post , “The strong assumption is that ­[Liang] had his finger on the trigger.” The source went on to say:

No one can tell a cop not to draw his weapon, but the one thing they do tell you is not to put your finger on the trigger unless you are firing. Otherwise, if you’re startled, there can be a grasping response.

The two officers reportedly proceeded to retreat into the stairwell for a period of five minutes without reporting the shooting “out of shock.” Police Commissioner Bill Bratton gave a statement on Friday, saying that “rookies shouldn’t be paired up for dangerous housing-project patrols.” Bratton referred to the shooting as an “accidental discharge.

The shooting has been ruled a homicide by the medical examiner, but much like the case of Erik Garner, that does not “imply any statement about intent or culpability, and as with all classifications made by OCME, the evaluation of legal implications of this classification is a function of the District Attorney and the criminal justice system.”

Brooklyn’s District Attorney, Kenneth Thompson, said that his office will be launching an investigative probe into the incident. Melissa Butler, the only civilian witness will meet with the Brooklyn D.A.’s office on Monday.

Reaction in East New York, one of NYC’s toughest neighborhoods, has been outrage. More than 250 people reportedly marched on Saturday night in protest of the shooting. “Wanted” posters that supposedly feature a photo of Peter Liang have shown up in East New York. One protester told NBC, “The killer of Akai is still around, we want him arrested.”

(Photo: Brian Blakely)