East New York

Examiner rules Brooklyn police shooting a homicide

Shooting in East New York housing project was originally considered an accident

November 24, 2014 By Verena Dobnik Associated Press
Kimberly Michelle Ballinger, domestic partner of Akai Gurley, center left, who was shot by an NYPD officer is joined by Rev. Al Sharpton, left, Gurley's daughter Akaila Gurley, 2, and and relative Janice Davis-Asiedu at the National Action Network in New York on Saturday. AP Photo/Craig Ruttle
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Politicians were meeting with prosecutors Monday following the New York City medical examiner’s ruling that the police killing of an unarmed man in a dark public housing stairwell was a homicide.

The medical examiner’s office said its finding that Akai Gurley’s death “resulted in full or in part from the actions of another person or persons,” a gunshot wound to the torso, “does not imply any statement about intent or culpability.”

“… The evaluation of the legal implications of this classification is a function of the district attorney and the criminal justice system,” the medical examiner said in a statement.

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Brooklyn District Attorney Kenneth Thompson has called the shooting “deeply troubling” and said it warrants “an immediate, fair and thorough investigation.” His office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday.

City Councilwoman Inez Barron and Assemblyman-elect Charles Barron planned a news conference Monday afternoon after meeting with prosecutors.

Police Commissioner William Bratton previously called the shooting Thursday in Brooklyn’s gritty East New York neighborhood an apparent accident that claimed a “totally innocent” life.

On Saturday evening, Barron organized a protest march of about 200 people from the shooting scene to the police department office that patrols housing developments.

Earlier Saturday, stunned relatives looked on as the Rev. Al Sharpton and public officials demanded a full investigation.

“We’re not demonizing the police,” Sharpton said, but “this young man should not be dead.”

Gurley’s death comes at a sensitive time in New York. On Staten Island, a grand jury is weighing whether to bring criminal charges against another officer in a chokehold death.

City police often conduct “vertical patrols” inside public housing by going from roofs down staircases that sometimes are havens for crime. Bratton has said the patrols are needed, and the development where Gurley was shot had recently seen a shooting, robberies and assaults.

Officer Peter Liang and his partner, both of whom are new to the force, were patrolling a pitch-dark stairwell with flashlights late Thursday, police said.

Police said the officers walked down the stairs onto an eighth-floor landing. Gurley and his girlfriend opened a stairwell door one floor down after giving up on waiting for an elevator. Police said Liang, patrolling with his gun drawn, fired without a word and apparently by accident, hitting Gurley from a distance of about 10 feet.

Liang, 26, has been placed on modified duty. Under standard policy, police internal affairs investigators won’t be able to question him until prosecutors have decided whether to file criminal charges.

Mayor Bill de Blasio met with some of Gurley’s relatives Friday evening.

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