Akai Gurley Square
Akai Gurley Square

An NYPD Officer Has Been Indicted In The Killing Of Unarmed Brooklynite Akai Gurley

Lenny Kravitz, Grace Jones, Lauryn Hill, Lion Babe, Thundercat, SZA & More Rock The Afropunk Festival 2015 in Brooklyn, NY.

Yesterday an NYPD officer was indicted by a grand jury in connection with the fatal shooting of an unarmed Brooklyn man. Akai Gurley, 28, was shot and killed by police officer Peter Liang in the darkened stairwell of an East New York apartment complex on November 20.

According to the New York Times, Liang has been indicted on a second-degree manslaughter charge, in addition to criminally negligent homicide, reckless endangerment, second-degree assault and two counts of official misconduct.

On the night in which Gurley was killed, Liang and his partner had been on patrolling a stairwell in the Louis H. Pink Houses complex just after 11pm. In an area already known to be excessively dark on account of broken light fixtures, Liang had been allegedly walking with his gun drawn when he encountered Gurley and his girlfriend one flight of stairs away. The officer, who had been on the force less than 18 months, reacted immediately and fired a shot in the dark. Both officers returned to the roof of the building, where they reportedly texted their police union representative before contacting emergency medical services. At that point it was already too late--Gurley had been shot directly in the chest and died shortly afterward.

New York City Police Commissioner Bill Bratton described Gurley as a "total innocent" shortly after the fatal encounter. In the protests that rocked the city following the non-indictment of police officers involved in Michael Brown and Eric Garner's killings, Gurley's name was frequently used as but another example of racially unbalanced policing. Yesterday's indictment, however, seems to breaks a pattern of police officers not being tried for their use of deadly force on an unarmed black man. "No matter what the specific charges," Mayor Bill de Blasiosaid in a statement, "this case is an unspeakable tragedy for the Gurley family. We urge everyone to respect the judicial process as it unfolds."

In a report last fall, the Times noted that Gurley's death came at a time when the young man was working hard to get a leg up on life. Gurley had ben offered a job with the City Housing Authority, and his good looks were opening up doors as well."He was getting it all together," an acquaintance of Gurley told the paper just after his killing. "He was becoming an actor, he was going to school for modeling, and he was going to work for the city."

Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson is expected to give a press conference later today and formally announce the grand jury's indictment of officer Liang. "He needs to answer to the family, to the community,” Maritza Ruiz, 45, told the Times. “There’s a young man dead.”