A rookie cop will face criminal charges for shooting and killing a Red Hook man in an East New York public housing development, according to a police union rep.
Responding to reports that a grand jury had indicted Officer Peter Liang for Akai Gurley’s death in a stairwell of the Louis H. Pink Houses, the head of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association confirmed the indictment and defended Liang in a statement, saying the high crime-rate of the development was a factor.
“This officer deserves the same due process afforded to anyone involved in the accidental death of another,” Patrick Lynch said. “The fact the he was assigned to patrol one most dangerous housing projects in New York City must be considered among the circumstances of this tragic accident.”
Gurley died on Nov. 20 after Liang shot him once in the chest in the building’s stairwell, cops said. Liang and his partner, who has not been charged, were patrolling the stairwell, and Liang had his gun drawn as he descended, according to police. He let off at least one round without warning when Gurley entered the stairwell one flight down, according to the NYPD.
In the wake of the killing, police Commissioner Bill Bratton declared it an accident and called Gurley a “total innocent.”
Lynch has also vehemently defended Officer Daniel Pantaleo, who, with other officers, killed Gowanus native Eric Garner in Staten Island in July, saying that the chokehold Pantaleo used on Garner was a “textbook takedown maneuver.” Lynch blamed Mayor DeBlasio and the protesters calling for Pantaleo’s indictment for the murder of two policemen in Bedford-Stuyvesant in December.
In a statement responding to Liang’s indictment, DeBlasio stressed that he wasn’t confirming it, and that people should avoid passing judgement for now.
“It has been reported that a Brooklyn grand jury has acted in this case,” he said. “No matter the specific charges, this case is an unspeakable tragedy for the Gurley family. We urge everyone to respect the judicial process as it unfolds.”
The prosecution came as welcome news to an attorney representing Gurley’s girlfriend in a $50-million lawsuit against the city, though a criminal trial would delay the suit.
“This is the first step toward justice,” Scott Rynecki said. “At this point, we will let justice take its course.”
Liang is expected to turn himself in on Wednesday morning, according to reports. The District Attorney’s Office declined to comment, but issued a tersely worded advisory saying that District Attorney Ken Thompson is meeting with reporters tomorrow afternoon, adding:
“No further information will be released until then as the results of the grand jury’s deliberations remain sealed as a matter of law.”