The Slatest

Death of Unarmed Brooklyn Man Shot by Police Ruled Homicide

New York assemblyman Charles Barron (right), city councilwoman Inez Barron (left), and resident Melissa Butler outside the building where Gurley was killed.

Photo by Lucas Jackson/Reuters

The death of Akai Gurley, the 28-year-old man who was killed by a New York City police officer in a public housing stairwell on Thursday, has been officially ruled a homicide and is being investigated by the Brooklyn district attorney, reports say. New York Police Commissioner Bill Bratton has said the shooting, committed by 27-year-old officer Peter Liang, was an accident. From the New York Post:

“His death resulted in whole from actions of another person, not from natural causes like disease,” the Medical Examiner’s office 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 legal implications of this classification is a function of the District Attorney and the criminal justice system.”

From the New York Times’ piece on the incident:

What is known, police officials said, is that Officer Liang took out his service weapon before entering the unlit stairwell, a not-uncommon practice by officers patrolling inside the city’s housing projects. He held a flashlight. He opened the eighth-floor door, followed by his partner, also a relatively new officer and whose name has not been released. The gun went off as Mr. Gurley entered the landing one floor below, trailing his girlfriend.

Liang—a “probationary officer” who had been on the job for less than 18 months—lives with his parents in Bensonhurst, a neighborhood in Brooklyn approximately 7 miles from where the shooting took place. He is reportedly “upset and distraught“; a neighbor said he has rarely left his bedroom since the incident and has “barely” eaten. Gurley is survived by a 2-year-old daughter, Akaila.