NEW YORK—Kimberly Ballinger, the domestic partner of the man who was fatally shot by a police officer inside a Brooklyn public housing project last week, arrived at the Brooklyn medical examiner’s office on Wednesday to identify her partner’s body.
Akai Gurley was shot in the chest by police officer Peter Liang as he and another, Melissa Butler, were entering a darkened stairwell inside the Pink Houses in East New York.
Liang and his partner were patrolling the stairwell at the same time. NYPD Police Commissioner William Bratton has said that the officer accidentally fired his gun while he had the weapon drawn and was descending the stairs conducting what is known as a vertical patrol. Gurley was unarmed at the time.
Outside the chief medical examiner’s office at around 12:15 p.m. on Wednesday, Ballinger declined to give comments to the press. She was represented by the Northeastern regional director of Al Sharpton’s National Action Network, Kirsten Johnfoy.
He said Ballinger has been “overwhelmed by the experience” and will address the public when she is ready to do so.
Johnfoy added that the family was committed to seeking justice for Gurley, “making sure that Akai’s memory and legacy is not buried with him.”
Asked about how Gurley’s family felt in wake of the grand jury decision in Ferguson, Mo. to not indict the police officer responsible for killing unarmed teenager Michael Brown, Johnfoy responded that the family has an “expectation of justice.”
“We have a different district attorney here in the county of Kings than they have in Ferguson, likewise in Staten Island,” she said, referring to the case of Eric Garner, who died this summer after police placed him in a chokehold during an attempt to arrest Garner for selling untaxed cigarettes.
He said the family is confident there will be a “complete and fair investigation” and hopes there will be an indictment of Liang.
If there is no indictment, Johnfoy said there is a possibility of taking the case to the civil rights division of the U.S. Department of Justice.
While Johnfoy urged the public not to compare the case of Michael Brown’s with Gurley’s, he added that both cases reflected long-standing issues of police targeting communities of color, of “unarmed black and Latino men gunned down by law enforcement.”
“We have reached the point where we are in a national crisis,” Johnfoy said.
Ballinger’s aunt, Stephanie Ballinger, and Reverend Kevin McCall, of the Brooklyn chapter of the Network, were also with Ballinger on Wednesday.
McCall said he will be supporting the family as they grieve for Gurley.
“This family has to sit at the table tomorrow on Thanksgiving without their loved one. His two-year daughter has to sit at the table without her father. It’s very tragic,” he said. “They need our prayers right now.”
The family is still considering funeral arrangements.