Society

Police Officer Accidentally Shoots and Kills Unarmed Man

| by Amanda Andrade-Rhoades

A man is dead due to a tragic mistake made by a "nervous" rookie police officer. Peter Liang and his partner, Shaun Landau, also a rookie, were patrolling a housing project in Brooklyn, New York, when Liang shot and killed Akai Gurley, 28. 

Liang and Landau arrived at the eighth floor, and the lights were out. Liang drew his gun as a precautionary measure. Gurley and his girlfriend, Melissa Butler, walked onto the floor, and Liang fired one shot into Gurley’s chest. Gurley then tumbled down the stairs and landed on the fifth floor, where he collapsed. He was pronounced dead when he arrived at Brookdale Hospital.

NYPD’s Internal Affairs Bureau is investigating the incident, but Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said “everything points to accidental discharge.”

Some questioned whether Liang should have unholstered his gun in the first place.

“We leave that decision to the officers based on what they are encountering or what they may encounter,” Bratton said. “But, as in all cases, an officer would have to justify the reasoning for unholstering his firearm.”

Gurley wasn’t doing anything wrong at the time of his death.

A police source speaking about what transpired told the Daily News that "it was dark. He must have been nervous.”

"The deceased is a total innocent who had just happened to be in the hallway at the same time as the cops,” Bratton said. “The deceased was not engaged in any activity other than trying to enter the stairwell.”

Butler was braiding Gurley’s hair just before he was killed in front of her. She said that the police officers did not alert them to their presence.

“They didn’t present themselves or nothing and shot him,” Butler said. “As soon as he came in, the police opened the [door to the] eighth-floor staircase. They didn’t identify themselves at all. They just shot.”

“There’s going to be a full investigation, to say the least,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “This is a tragic situation — that’s the bottom line. This is a tragedy; a life was lost and my heart goes out to the family.”

“On a very human level, we lost a life today,” the mayor said. “But it does appear to have been a very tragic accident.”

Sources:  New York Post, NY Daily News / Image via Associated Press