The New York City police officer who shot and killed a man inside a Brooklyn public housing project last November has been indicted on charges of manslaughter, according to a source close to the investigation.
Akai Gurley walked into a darkened stairwell inside the Pink Houses, in East New York, Brooklyn, when police officer Peter Liang—who was on duty patroling the stairways—accidentally fired his gun, according to the police department. The shot landed in Gurley’s chest. Gurley was unarmed at the time.
Police said Liang had his weapon drawn and accidentally pulled the trigger as he was descending the stairs.
The Brooklyn district attorney Kenneth Thompson, who impaneled a grand jury to decide whether to bring criminal charges against officer Liang, did not comment on the case Tuesday, but his office announced that an arraignment has been scheduled for Wednesday at 2 p.m.
Attorney Scott Rynecki, who is representing Gurley’s domestic partner Kimberly Ballinger in a civil lawsuit against the city, confirmed that the arraignment is for officer Liang.
Ballinger is suing the city for $50 million in damages for Gurley’s death.
The civil rights organization National Action Network (NAN), which represented Ballinger following Gurley’s death, said in a statement Tuesday that they were pleased the judicial process “will now allow for a fair and impartial hearing.”
“Unlike the case in Staten Island, this case shows the difference in a prosecutor who will respect the grand jury’s role to decide probable cause, rather than attempt to influence it. We will monitor this to make sure there is a fair process,” said NAN’s Northeast Regional Director Kirsten John Foy, referring to the case of Eric Garner, who died after a police officer placed him in a chokehold during an attempt to arrest him for selling untaxed cigarettes. A grand jury in Staten Island had declined to indict the officer.
Patrick Lynch, the president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, said in a statement Tuesday that officer Liang deserves his right to due process. “The fact that he was assigned to patrol in one of the most dangerous housing projects in New York City must be considered among the circumstances of this tragic accident,” said Lynch, who is the head of the city’s largest police union.
New York City’s mayor, Bill de Blasio, Tuesday urged New Yorkers in a statement to “respect the judicial process as it unfolds.”
Additional reporting by Genevieve Belmaker.