Medical Examiner Rules Akai Gurley's Death A Homicide


NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office said its civil rights unit is investigating the fatal shooting of an unarmed man by a NYPD officer last Thursday.

As 1010 WINS’ Roger Stern reported, it was a decision that won praise from Rep. Hakeem Jeffries and Rep. Nydia Velazquez after they met with District Attorney Ken Thompson for about a half an hour on Sunday.

“District Attorney Thompson will let the facts and the evidence and the law guide his office into doing the right thing,” Jeffries said. “The community is sick and tired of being sick and tired of these types of instances of police violence.”

Prosecutors will determine if the shooting of 28-year-old Akai Gurley by Officer Peter Liang while he and his partner patrolled a dark stairwell at the Louis Heaton Pink Houses in East New York was an accident or a crime.

“How did he die and why?” Velazquez said.

Whatever the answer, Velazquez said two rookie police officers should not have been paired up without a seasoned officer at their side, Stern reported.

One neighbor, who didn’t want to appear on camera, said Liang never shouted a warning command before firing his gun.

“I think the cop was scared. You can’t put a rookie cop in certain areas because they’re not experienced,” she said.

The Medical Examiner’s Office ruled Gurley’s death a homicide on Sunday, 1010 WINS reported.

“The manner of death in this case means that death resulted in whole or in part from the actions of another person or persons and not from natural causes such as disease,” the medical examiner said in a statement. “The classification does not imply any statement about intent or culpability, and as with all classifications made by OCME, the evaluation of the legal implications of this classification is a function of the District Attorney and the criminal justice system.”

Meanwhile, community organizers are handing out “Know Your Rights” fliers, which at the bottom say “Don’t talk to the cops,” CBS2’s Matt Kozar reported.

On Saturday Rev. Al Sharpton was joined by members of Gurley’s family as he called for a thorough, independent investigation into the shooting, which the NYPD has said was an accident.

“They are saying it was an accident, we’re saying how do we know until there is a thorough investigation?” Sharpton said.

On Saturday night, dozens marched 2 miles from the Louis H. Pink Houses to face the NYPD.

“We are having a series of senseless murders, not only in New York, but around the country and it just seems like black lives don’t matter,” one attendee said.

“This is not supposed to be happening again, again and again,” another supporter said.

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams said he believes Liang should not be allowed to return to law enforcement, Kozar reported.

“Taking the life of an innocent person is too fatal to continue a law enforcement career,” he said.

The shooting happened around 11:15 p.m. Thursday.

Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said Liang and his partner were going into a stairwell from the eighth floor while Gurley and his girlfriend were going down the stairs from the seventh floor.

Police sources told CBS2 that Liang was trying to open a door while holding a gun, and the gun went off accidentally, hitting Gurely in the torso.

Gurley was taken to Brookdale University Hospital and Medical Center where he was pronounced dead.

Liang has been placed on modified duty.

Bratton emphasized that police believe Gurley had done nothing wrong, leaving friends and family questioning why Liang had his gun drawn in the first place.

“Let me reinforce – at this point, the deceased is, based on our preliminary investigation, totally innocent,” Bratton said.

Activists and residents are calling for Bratton to be fired and for the arrest of Liang.

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