A grand jury in Brooklyn has indicted NYPD officer Peter Liang for shooting African-American resident Akai Gurley, according to the Washington Post. Multiple sources, including police commissioner Bill Bratton, claim that Gurley was “completely innocent” of any wrong-doing when he was shot dead in a dark stairwell in an East New York housing project in November. Liang will face charges of second-degree manslaughter.
The Washington Post reports that on November 20 last year, Liang was patrolling the housing project with his gun drawn. When Gurley’s girlfriend opened the door, the officer fired one shot into the man’s chest. Akai Gurley managed to get down two stories before collapsing on the fifth floor of the housing project. He was unarmed.
The superintendent had put in an order with the New York City Housing Authority to fix the lights in the building months earlier. But the authority never got around to it, and when Liang was conducting his patrol it was so dark that he held a flashlight in one hand and a gun in the other.
The medical examiner declared Akai Gurley’s death a homicide. Liang was indicted by a grand jury, but he maintains that the shooting was an accident.
According to the New York Post, Gurley’s domestic partner, Kimberly Ballinger, and her lawyer welcomed the indictment.
“The feeling of Ms. Ballinger and myself is that this is the first step in the fight for justice for this wrongful and reckless shooting of an innocent man.”
TheHuffington Post reports that protesters have been demanding an indictment for months. Two other grand jury hearings into the police killings of Eric Garner and Michael Brown failed to indict the implicated officers.
New York Mayor Bill De Blasio, who has struggled with his relationship with the NYPD, kept his statements fairly neutral after the grand jury released its decision.
“It has been reported that a Brooklyn grand jury has acted in this case. No matter the specific charges, this case is an unspeakable tragedy for the Gurley family. We urge everyone to respect the judicial process as it unfolds.”
Others are sticking up for the NYPD officer. Ed Mullins, president of the Sergeants Benevolent Association, told the New York Daily News the indictment made him sad.
“It’s a tragic, tragic, tragic case. I’m sad that he was indicted… I don’t know exactly what transpired in that hallway, but I believe it’s a truly accidental incident.”
The Patrolman’s Benevolent Association president, Patrick J. Lynch, also talked about the incident.
“This officer deserves the same due process afforded to anyone involved in the accidental death of another. The fact that he was assigned to patrol one most dangerous housing projects in New York City must be considered among the circumstances of this tragic accident.”
In addition to the criminal indictment, Kimberly Ballinger is seeking $50 million from the city for the shooting death of Akai Gurley.
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