Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Officer Indicted in Killing of Unarmed Man in NYC Stairwell; Rookie Fired into Dark Stairwell in Housing Complex; Charges Are Unclear

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Officer Indicted in Killing of Unarmed Man in NYC Stairwell; Rookie Fired into Dark Stairwell in Housing Complex; Charges Are Unclear

Article excerpt

NEW YORK * A rookie police officer who fired into a darkened stairwell at a Brooklyn public housing complex, accidentally killing a man who had been waiting for an elevator, has been indicted in his death, a lawyer said Tuesday.

Officer Peter Liang will appear in court Wednesday in the November shooting death of Akai Gurley, 28, according to Scott Rynecki, an attorney representing Gurley's family. Grand jury proceedings are secret.

It wasn't clear what charges were considered; they could range from misdemeanor official misconduct to manslaughter, a felony.

Patrick J. Lynch, head of Liang's police union, said he deserved due process.

"The fact that he was assigned to patrol one of the most dangerous housing projects in New York City must be considered among the circumstances of this tragic accident," Lynch said.

The indictment follows mass protests and calls for reform of the grand jury system nationwide after a Staten Island grand jury's refusal to indict a white police officer in the chokehold death of Eric Garner, a black man, and a Missouri grand jury's decision not to indict a white officer in the death of Michael Brown, a black 18- year-old.

Gurley was black. Liang is Asian-American.

Rynecki said the shooting was unjustified, regardless of whether it was intentional.

"This is the first step for justice," he said.

Liang and his partner were patrolling the Louis Pink Houses, a public housing development in Brooklyn's gritty East New York neighborhood, on Nov. 20. The New York Police Department assigns rookie officers as reinforcements in parts of the city that have seen increases in crime. The housing complex, where Gurley's friend lives, had been the scene of a recent shooting, robberies and assaults.

The officers had descended onto an eighth-floor landing when, 14 steps away, Gurley and the woman who had been braiding his hair opened a door into the seventh-floor landing after giving up their wait for the elevator so he could head to the lobby.

The lights were burned out in the stairwell, leaving it "pitch black" and prompting both officers to use flashlights, police said after the shooting.

Liang, 27, for reasons unclear, also had his gun drawn, police said. …

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