NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Loved ones solemnly carried a casket with the remains of Akai Gurley into a Brooklyn church Friday night, as they paid their respects, expressed their pain and called for action.
Gurley, 28, was fatally shot by a rookie police officer on Nov. 20 in a dark public housing stairwell in what police have called a tragic accident.
As CBS2’s Weijia Jiang reported, dozens attended the wake at Brown Memorial Baptist Church, at 484 Washington Ave. in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn.
“It hurts, it hurts,” said Kim Ballinger, Gurley’s domestic partner and the father of his child. “Not only did I lose someone, my daughter will have to grow up without a dad now. What am I supposed to tell her?” she asked.
Gurley’s funeral service is scheduled for Saturday morning.
The service was preceded by a controversy involving the Rev. Al Sharpton. In a statement, the National Action Network said the Sharpton had decided not to attend due to a “dispute” among Gurley’s family members.
The statement suggested that the Gurley’s domestic partner and sister wanted the civil rights leader to be involved, while others did not.
Sharpton had planned to attend memorial services Friday night and Saturday along with Gwen Carr – the mother of Eric Garner, who died this past summer after being put in an apparent chokehold by a police officer. A grand jury this week decided not to indict an officer involved in the Garner incident.
But Sharpton said he and Carr will not be attending the services for Gurley “after receiving information about an open dispute amongst (Gurley’s) family.”
The statement said Sharpton and Carr “hope that the families work out whatever their disputes are between the domestic partner, mother and aunt, and will pursue justice as a united front.”
The statement said Sharpton and his organization had spoken with Gurley’s domestic partner – who is the mother of his child – as his next of kin, who had wanted him to be involved in their demand for justice. While not indicating specifically that anyone wanted Sharpton to stay out of the issue, the statement did say, “we mean no disrespect for others.”
The statement followed a TMZ report quoting Gurley’s aunt, Hertenceia Peterson, and saying she was speaking for Gurley’s mother.
Quoted by TMZ, Peterson said, “Al Sharpton came in, put his name on the situation, but has not even made one single call to the parents to Akai.” TMZ reported that Peterson said Gurley’s family did not want Sharpton to deliver a eulogy at Gurley’s wake, and that he would be “persona non grata” at Gurley’s funeral on Saturday.
The National Action Network statement made a point of noting that Sharpton had rearranged his schedule to appear at the services for Gurley.
“Rev. Sharpton, who is overwhelmed with his work seeking justice in police misconduct cases involving Michael Brown and Eric Garner, was scheduled to speak at the private memorial service of former Washington, D.C., Mayor Marion Barry and canceled because of the request of these young ladies,” the statement said. “NAN did not mean to interfere with any family dispute and remains available to assist once and if they work their situation out.”
Gurley’s mother and stepfather demanded justice ahead of the memorial service.
“My son was my life. There is nothing in this world [that] can heal my pain and my heartache and I pray to God that I get justice for my son,” Gurley’s mother, Sylvia Palmer, said at a news conference. “My son didn’t deserve to die like that.”
She called her son “a good man” who did nothing wrong.
“I love my son dearly. My son was a good family man. He loved life,” she said. “But most importantly, he loved his daughter.”
“To me, my son was the best son,” said Gurley’s stepfather, Kenneth Palmer. “My son was my sunshine and my wife’s sunshine.”