East New York

Unarmed man killed by rookie NYPD officer in Brooklyn housing complex

Bratton: Incident was likely an accident

November 21, 2014 By Tom Hays & Colleen Long Associated Press
NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton. AP photo

A man leaving his girlfriend’s apartment was shot and killed in a darkened stairwell of a public housing complex after a rookie cop on patrol fired his weapon, likely accidentally, officials said Friday.

Twenty-eight-year-old Akai Gurley had spent the evening at the Louis Pink Houses in Brooklyn’s East New York neighborhood when he entered the dark hallway about 11 p.m. Thursday on the seventh floor. Meanwhile, the two officers, who had come from the roof down the stairwells on patrol, were on the eighth floor. Police Commissioner William Bratton said officer Peter Liang had his gun and flashlight out and apparently accidentally fired one shot. The round struck Gurley in the chest, and he died later at a hospital.

“What happened last night was a very unfortunate tragedy,” Bratton said. “The deceased is totally innocent. He just happened to be in the hallway. He was not engaged in any criminal activity.”

Bratton said Gurley and his girlfriend tried to get into the elevator, but it wasn’t coming so they got into the stairwell. Police officials have pieced together the details from radio reports and other interviews but have not spoken to Liang. The officer must first be interviewed by the district attorney’s office, which will decide whether to file criminal charges, and then he will be interviewed by internal affairs officers, which is standard policy.

Gurley’s girlfriend, Melissa Butler, told the Daily News of New York she was walking him out of her seventh-floor apartment after braiding his hair when the shooting happened.

“He didn’t do nothing wrong,” she said. “He was just standing there and they shot him. He was an innocent man.”

Butler said she and Gurley made it down two flights of stairs after he was shot, but he collapsed on the fifth-floor landing and lost consciousness He was taken to a nearby hospital where he died, police said.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said the poor lighting in the stairwell of the housing complex reinforces the need for better lightning in public housing after years of neglect.

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Gurley has a 2-year-old son, and his mother lives in Florida, police said.

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