Imagine spending a few hours with your significant other and their sister getting your hair braided only to wind up being shot and killed by a police officer for doing absolutely nothing.
That’s exactly what happened to Akai Gurley in a dark stairwell late Thursday night:
A rookie New York City police officer shot and killed an unarmed 28-year-old man in a darkened stairwell in Brooklyn late Thursday night, according to the police.
Mayor Bill de Blasio said the shooting appeared to be unprovoked.
“We don’t know enough yet, but it does appear to be an accident,” the mayor said at a news conference on Friday. “This is a tragedy.”
The victim was identified as Akai Gurley, and the officer, Peter Liang, has been placed on modified assignment and was relieved of both his badge and gun.
Police Commissioner William J. Bratton called the shooting “an unfortunate accident.”
Mr. Gurley “was a total innocent,” Mr. Bratton said. He was not engaged in any activity other than trying to walk down the stairs, Mr. Bratton said.
Hate. Hate. Hate. That this is referred to as an “unfortunate accident”. This murder was entirely preventable. It may not have been done out of malice, but the officer intended to shoot. “Why did he shoot” is what I wonder.
Officer Liang, who was on the job less than 18 months, and his partner were patrolling the Louis H. Pink Houses in East New York when they encountered Mr. Gurley inside a nearly pitch-black stairwell shortly before midnight, Mr. Bratton said.
Officer Liang drew his flashlight and his gun as he entered the stairwell on the eighth floor.
At the same time, Mr. Gurley and his girlfriend had just entered the stairwell on the seventh floor.
“One officer discharged one round from his service weapon, striking the male in the chest,” according to a statement from the police.
Remember, it’s just an “unfortunate accident” that the officer drew his gun and discharged it. Mmm hmm. Oh, wait. I get it. The officer was in an unknown situation, with poor lighting, and so was forced to draw upon all his police training to deal with someone who was…entering a stairwell. I completely see the reason he shot the guy.
Mr. Gurley was taken to Brookdale Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Janice Butler, whose sister was with Mr. Gurley at the time of the shooting, said that the victim had been in an apartment on the eighth floor getting his hair braided for several hours Thursday night.
Mr. Gurley did not live in the building and left the apartment with his girlfriend shortly after 11 p.m. The two initially went to the elevator but it was taking too long, so they decided to take the stairs.
The girlfriend entered the stairwell first and heard a door open nearby. The next sound she heard was a shot echoing through the stairwell. Then she saw her boyfriend, shot in the chest, staggering down two flights of stairs.
Ms. Butler said that, according to her sister, the police did not identify themselves, or give any commands.
“The cop didn’t present himself, he just shot him in the chest,” Ms. Butler said. “They didn’t see their face or nothing.”
She added, “They didn’t say anything.”
Cops don’t have to identify themselves before they shoot an unarmed person in this country, dontcha know. Hell, cops in the US frequently resort to extreme or lethal force with no attempt to de-escalate a situation. This is yet another example of a police force with unchecked power and no accountability. As in the case of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, this case raises serious questions about police training, the use of force by officers, and the role of the police in society.