NYPD police officer Peter Liang has been indicted today in the shooting death of 28-year-old Akai Gurley in Brooklyn on November 2014. Gurley was unarmed in the “pitch black” stairwell of the Louis H. Pink Houses project when he and Liang crossed paths and the officer fired a single shot.
Originally described as “accidental discharge” by NYPD Commissioner William Bratton, Kenneth Thompson, a Brooklyn District Attorney has gathered an investigation around the case. Liang, who was a rookie cop, was placed on probationary status and “modified assignment.” He’s currently facing negligent homicide, second-degree manslaughter, official misconduct and 15 years in prison. A Thompson spokeswoman couldn’t confirm the indictment and only shared the the matter was “precluded by grand jury secrecy.” He’s expected to turn himself in tonight or on Wednesday morning.
The shooting happened on November 20th while Liang and his partner, Shaun Landau conducted a routine “vertical patrol,” which is when cops check the staircases of projects and buildings for impending crime. Gurley was on the 8th floor with his girlfriend and mother of his child Kimberly Ballinger ascending down the darkened steps (as lights were broken). They met the cops halfway and what led to Liang shooting Gurley is unknown, but he fired one shot at Gurley’s chest. Instead of reporting by radio to their stations or calling for medical help, they chose to text their union delegates.
Before today’s announcement, Gurley’s death, while not as heavily publicized as the Eric Garner and Michael Brown inspired protests in New York and was definitely a part of the #BLACKLIVESMATTER movement.
In a CBS report, the Gurley family attorney, Scott Rynecki saw the fight for Liang’s indictment the only silver lining in the case considering the line of cops that were shockingly not indicted before him, such as Darren Wilson and Daniel Pantaleo. “We’re very pleased. I know that the public, at large, has lost a lot of faith in the justice system, giving what’s happened in Ferguson and Staten Island, but however, when Ms. Ballinger and I met with the District Attorney’s office, we came out that meeting with full faith and confidence.”
Ballinger plans on suing the city for $50 million. The possible charges against Liang are set for Wednesday during his arraignment. It’s a beautiful thing to see justice finally being served in a case like this. However, our thoughts and prayers are with Gurley’s family.