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Shooting of Akai Gurley

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Shooting of Akai Gurley

Shooting of Akai Gurley
Time c. 11:15 p.m.
Date November 20, 2014 (2014-11-20)
Location East New York, Brooklyn, New York, United States
Participants Killed: Akai Gurley
Officer: Peter Liang
Deaths 1
Charges Second-degree manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide, second-degree assault, reckless endangerment, two counts of official misconduct
Litigation Gurley's family filed a lawsuit against the City of New York, seeking $50 million

The shooting of Akai Gurley, a 28-year-old African-American man, occurred on November 20, 2014, in Brooklyn, New York City, United States. He was shot by a New York City Police Department officer. Two police officers, patrolling stairwells in the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA)'s Louis H. Pink Houses in East New York, Brooklyn, entered a dark, unlit stairwell, one of them, Officer Peter Liang, with his firearm drawn. Gurley and his girlfriend entered the seventh-floor stairwell, fourteen steps below them. The shooting was declared an accidental discharge; the bullet ricocheted off the wall and Gurley was struck once in the chest and later died at Brookdale University hospital.[1][2]

On February 10, 2015, Liang was indicted by a grand jury on manslaughter, assault, and other criminal charges.[3] He turned himself in to authorities the next day to be arraigned on the charges.


  • Backgrounds 1
    • Peter Liang 1.1
    • Akai Gurley 1.2
    • Location 1.3
  • Shooting 2
  • Similarity to the shooting of Timothy Stansbury Jr. 3
  • Aftermath 4
  • Legal proceedings 5
  • Media coverage 6
  • See also 7
  • References 8


Peter Liang

Peter Liang (born c. 1987) had less than 18 months of experience with New York Police Department (NYPD) at the time of the shooting. He lived in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn with his parents and grandmother,[4] immigrating to New York City from Hong Kong as a child with his parents. His dad is a cook and his mom works at a clothing factory. Officer Liang graduated from M.S. 131 School located in Chinatown, Manhattan, and is said to have many African American friends and he often played sports with them while at school. He also has a little brother who is in college.[5] Officer Liang has aspired to become a police officer since he was little.[6]

Akai Gurley

Akai Kareem Gurley (c. 1986 – November 20, 2014) was born in Saint Thomas, US Virgin Islands, Caribbean, and moved to New York when he was a child.[7] He was a resident of the Louis H. Pink Houses, where he lived with his girlfriend and two-year-old daughter. He has 24 prior arrests on his record, which consisted of drug dealing arrests.[8][9]


According to Patrick Lynch, head of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association of the City of New York, "[t]he Pink Houses are among the most dangerous projects in the city, and their stairwells are the most dangerous places in the projects."[10] There had been a recent spate of crime in the Louis Pink Houses; NYPD statistics and Police Commissioner Bill Bratton reported that there had been two murders, two robberies, and four shootings in the Pink Houses alone over the past month.[10][11]


Two rookie police officers assigned to the NYCHA's Louis H. Pink Houses were, reportedly against orders,[12] conducting a vertical patrol,[13] in which officers patrol a public housing complex from the roof to the ground floor, stopping on each floor to see if there is any crime underway.[14] The NYPD’s policy on whether an officer should keep a weapon holstered on such patrols is purposely vague and the decision as to when to take a firearm out is left to the discretion of the officers, according to Police Commissioner Bill Bratton.[15]

The 28-year-old, unarmed Akai Gurley was visiting his girlfriend and getting his hair braided before Thanksgiving. He entered the stairwell about a flight below Officers Shaun Landau and Peter Liang, who were patrolling the pitch-dark stairwell with no lights. According to the prosecutors, Officer Liang, who is left-handed, pulled out his flashlight with his right hand and unholstered his 9mm Glock with his left. He then shoved open the stairwell door with his right shoulder, turned left to face the seventh-floor landing, where Gurley had just entered. It appeared neither side knew the other was there and no words were exchanged, according to authorities.[16] Officer Liang's gun accidentally discharged as he opened the door and the bullet ricocheted off the wall and struck Gurley once in the chest, who later died at the hospital.[1][2] It is reported that Gurley actually ran after hearing the gunshot, and didn’t realize he was bleeding until collapsing on the fifth floor.[2]

Media reports initially surfaced that indicated both officers text messaged their union representatives before calling for help,[17] which was later refuted as false by both the police union and the District Attorney office.[18][19]

Similarity to the shooting of Timothy Stansbury Jr.

The death of Akai Gurley is notably similar to the shooting death of Timothy Stansbury Jr. that occurred in January 2004, when Officer Richard S. Neri Jr. killed Timothy Stansbury Jr., 19, on a roof at the Louis Armstrong Houses in Brooklyn at about 1 a.m. when Officer Neri, with his gun drawn, approached a rooftop door to check the stairway inside. A grand jury declined to indict Officer Neri on charges of criminally negligent homicide, declaring the event an accident, after he gave testimony that he had unintentionally fired; he was startled, he said, when Mr. Stansbury pushed open a rooftop door in a place where drug dealing was rampant.[20][21]


New York City Police Commissioner Bill Bratton declared the shooting to be an accident and that Gurley was a "total innocent".[22] Kings county district attorney Kenneth P. Thompson said that he planned to impanel a grand jury to look into the death of Akai Gurley.[1][23]

Akai Gurley's funeral was conducted December 6 at the Brown Memorial Baptist Church in Fort Greene. Initially Al Sharpton offered to speak at the service, but stepped down after a dispute within the family. Instead activist Kevin Powell spoke at the service.[24][25] On 27 December, 200 people marched in Brooklyn, NY to protest the killing of Akai Gurley.[26] He is interred at Rosedale Memorial Park in Linden, New Jersey.[7]

New York City councilwoman Margaret Chin stated that she was satisfied with the grand jury indicting Liang. Chin, who is also Hong Kong American like Officer Peter Liang, said in an interview that she received "flak" from some members of the Chinese American community for supporting the decision to indict Liang.[27] Dozens of Chinese Americans showed up at the courthouse in May 2015 to support Liang, feeling that Liang was being used as a scapegoat and demanded the charges to be dropped, as other White police officers were not charged. A California woman also started a petition to the White House calling for the indictment to be dropped.[28] Other Chinese Americans said that he should be held accountable for Gurley's death,[29] including activist Esther Wang.[30]

Gurley's death was one of several police killings of African Americans protested by the Black Lives Matter movement.[31][32]

Legal proceedings

On February 10, 2015, Officer Peter Liang was indicted by a grand jury for the shooting death of Akai Gurley. He was charged with second-degree manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide, second-degree assault, reckless endangerment, and two counts of official misconduct. Liang had a court date on February 11, and turned himself in that day.[33] He pleaded not guilty to the charges and was released without having to post bond, and was suspended from his job without pay. If convicted of the manslaughter charge, Liang could face a maximum of 15 years of prison.

Media coverage

The incident has received national and international coverage, in part due to the time of its occurrence shortly after the recent police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, the death of Eric Garner in Staten Island, New York, and the Ferguson unrest, which had attracted public attention.[34][35]

The New York Police Department's practice of vertical patrols has also come under criticism.[36][37] The Village Voice described the incident as part of a year of public relations disasters for the NYPD.[38] Other coverage has focused on the maintenance and public safety issues that led to the death.[39][40][41]

See also


  1. ^ a b c Izadi, Elahe; Holley, Peter (21 November 2014). "Officer’s Errant Shot Kills Unarmed Brooklyn Man". New York Times Post. Retrieved 26 November 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c "Panicked rookie NYPD officer fatally shoots unarmed 28-year-old man in Brooklyn's Pink Houses project". NEW YORK DAILY NEWS. 21 November 2014. 
  3. ^ "NYPD Officer Peter Liang Indicted In Fatal Shooting Of Akai Gurley « CBS New York". Retrieved February 11, 2015. 
  4. ^ Officer's indictment brings little solace, New York Times
  5. ^ "梁彼得非裔朋友多 不曾歧視". World Journal 世界日报. 14 February 2015. 
  6. ^ "他真的很好 鄰居為梁彼得叫屈". World Journal 世界日报. 12 February 2015. 
  7. ^ a b Akai Kareem Gurley's funeral service program, Dec. 6, 2014, Brown Memorial Baptist Church, Brooklyn
  8. ^ "Bratton: Fatal Police-Involved Shooting Of Unarmed Man At Brooklyn Housing Complex ‘Unfortunate Tragedy’". CBS New York. November 21, 2014. Retrieved 11 April 2015. 
  9. ^ Josh Saul (November 21, 2014). "Man killed by NYPD rookie planned to surprise mom in Florida". New York Post. Retrieved 11 April 2015. 
  10. ^ a b Ben Feuerherd; Lorena Mongelli; Sophia Rosenbaum (November 22, 2014). "Living in fear at the dark & deadly hellhole houses". New York Post. Retrieved 11 April 2015. 
  11. ^ Christopher Mathias (December 10, 2014). "Akai Gurley's Death Shines Harsh Light On Vertical Patrols In Public Housing". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 11 April 2015. 
  12. ^
  13. ^ "Akai Gurley, Unarmed Man, Shot By NYPD". Huffington Post. 22 November 2014. 
  14. ^ Laughland, Oliver (5 December 2014). "Akai Gurley's funeral: a cry for answers". The Guardian. 
  15. ^ "Rookie cops often assigned to dangerous ‘vertical patrols’". New York Post. 22 November 2014. 
  16. ^ "NYPD Officer Pleads Not Guilty in Shooting Death of Unarmed Man". The Wall Street Journal. 11 February 2015. 
  17. ^ "EXCLUSIVE: Rookie NYPD officer who shot Akai Gurley in Brooklyn stairwell was texting union rep as victim lay dying". New York Daily News. 5 December 2014. 
  18. ^ "Grand Jury To Hear Case Of Unarmed Man Shot By New York Cop In Stairwell". BuzzFeed News. 5 December 2014. 
  19. ^ "Here's What It'd Take To Convict The NYPD Cop Who Killed Akai Gurley". Huffington Post. 12 February 2015. 
  20. ^ "Officer’s Errant Shot Kills Unarmed Brooklyn Man". New York Times. 21 November 2014. 
  21. ^ "Lupica: Shooting of Akai Gurley doesn't make East New York into Ferguson, or officer into a criminal". New York Daily News. 23 November 2014. 
  22. ^ "Officer’s Errant Shot Kills Unarmed Brooklyn Man". NY Times. 22 November 2014. 
  23. ^ Clifford, Stephanie (9 December 2014). "A Police Killing Puts Heavy Expectations on a Prosecutor". NY Times. 
  24. ^ "Relatives Mourn Akai Gurley, An Innocent Man Killed By The NYPD". Gothamist. 7 December 2014. 
  25. ^ "Memorial for Akai Gurley, Unarmed Man Shot by NYPD, Set for Today". The Village Voice. 5 December 2014. 
  26. ^ "Watch Brooklyn Protesters Demand Justice for Akai Gurley". Https:. Retrieved January 4, 2015. 
  27. ^ Race doesn't matter: reaction to officer Liang's indictment, NBC News
  28. ^
  29. ^ Chinese Americans in New York split over officer who shot man, Yahoo News, May 14, 2015.
  30. ^
  31. ^ Prupis, Nadia. "NYPD Officer Indicted in Shooting of Akai Gurley: Reports".  
  32. ^ "A statement from members of the #BlackLivesMatter team". Retrieved May 25, 2015. 
  33. ^ News newspaper=NY1, NY1 (10 February 2015). "Officer Indicted in Shooting Death of Akai Gurley". 
  34. ^ "A Look at Recent Police Killings Cited in Protests". ABC News. 22 December 2014. 
  35. ^ Nessen, Stephen (5 December 2014). "Like Michael Brown And Eric Garner, Akai Gurley's Death Inspires Anger". NPR. 
  36. ^ "Lessons From a Stairwell Shooting". NY Times. 2 December 2014. 
  37. ^ Mathias, Christopher (10 December 2014). "Akai Gurley's Death Shines Harsh Light On Vertical Patrols In Public Housing". Huffington Post. 
  38. ^ Toth, Kathie (19 December 2014). "The Year in NYPD Public Relations Disasters". The Village Voice. 
  39. ^ Floyd, Gregory (19 December 2014). "Let’s take the longer view on NYCHA’s safety". New York Amsterdam News. 
  40. ^ Shalev, Asaf (18 December 2014). "After Akai Gurley: The Connection Between Maintenance and Safety in Public Housing". The Brooklyn Ink. 
  41. ^ "I-Team: Darkened Stairwell Not the Only Problem at Police Shooting Building". NBC New York. 16 December 2014. 
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