New York City Police Department Commissioner William Bratton says an officer-involved shooting that killed a man inside a public housing building in Brooklyn Thursday night appears to be accidental. NY1's Dean Meminger filed the following report.
The combination of a dark stairwell, a rookie police officer and a man going down the stairs proved to be deadly for a 28-year-old man. The officer shot and killed him in Brooklyn Thursday night.
"Total innocent," said Police Commissioner William Bratton. "He just happened to be in that hallway as the officers were entering the adjacent hallway one landing up. Was not engaged in any criminal activity of any type."
Akai Kareem Gurley was visiting a friend when they decided to take the stairs at the Pink Houses because the elevator was taking too long. Officer Peter Liang and another officer were doing vertical patrols of the building as a part of a violence reduction team.
Police say the officers saw the lights were out in the staircase. Liang took out a flashlight and his gun as he entered the stairwell from the eighth floor. As Gurley came in on the seventh floor, Liang shot him in the chest.
Bratton said the shooting appeared to be an accidental discharge, and that it's up to officers to decide if they need to have their guns out while patrolling.
"There is not a specific prohibition against taking a firearm out, but again, as in all cases, an officer would have to justify the circumstances," Bratton said.
The woman who was with Gurley said they heard the gunshot and started to run down the stairs. That's when she realized Gurley was hit. She didn't want to speak on camera, but she stood by Assemblyman-elect Charles Barron twice Friday as he called the shooting a murder.
"This is a cold-blooded killing. It's not an accident. It's not a tragedy. It's a crime," Barron said. "There was no justifiable reason for discharging his weapon."
Late Friday, Mayor Bill de Blasio and the police commissioner met with Gurley's family.
"We lost a life today, and I feel that very humanly, as I'm sure all New Yorkers do, but it does appear to have been a very tragic accident," de Blasio said.
Liang has had his gun and badge taken from him. He's now on modified duty.