A New York City police officer has been indicted in the death of Akai Gurley, an unarmed man shot and killed in a Brooklyn housing project in November, a law enforcement official with knowledge of the investigation has told CNN.
The charges against Officer Peter Liang were not revealed Tuesday.
Gurley, 28, was “a total innocent who just happened” to run into Liang in a “pitch black” stairwell at the Louis H. Pink Houses in Brooklyn, New York Police Commissioner William Bratton told reporters the day after the killing.
At the time, the NYPD called the shooting an accident, terming the fatal shot an “accidental discharge.”
Liang, with less than 18 months on the job and on probationary status, had been placed on modified assignment and stripped of his gun and badge pending an investigation.
“This officer deserves the same due process afforded to anyone involved in the accidental death of another,” Patrick Lynch, head of the police union, said in a statement. “The fact the he was assigned to patrol one most dangerous housing projects in New York City must be considered among the circumstances of this tragic accident.”
Scott Rynecki, an attorney for Kimberly Ballinger, Gurley’s domestic partner and mother of their child, said, “She is at this point feeling that this is the first step in the fight for justice for this wrongful and reckless shooting.”
The Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office had no comment on the indictment.
Gurley’s shooting occurred at a time of strained police/community relations after the July death of Eric Garner at the hands of police on Staten Island. The chokehold death of the unarmed 43-year-old man sparked street protests, a review of police procedures and calls for a federal civil rights investigation. A grand jury declined to prosecute the officer.
A few weeks after Garner’s death, the police shooting in Ferguson, Missouri, of unarmed teenager Michael Brown thrust into the forefront the issue of law enforcement’s use of deadly force. A grand jury declined to prosecute Officer Darren Wilson, a decision that led to widespread demonstrations.