Akai Gurley’s parents speak, Ken Thompson pledges to impanel grand jury

Parents mourn stairwell-shooting victim, DA investigates

Remember our son: Sylvia and Kenneth Palmer, sitting left and right, parents of slain Red Hook man Akai Gurley, join Brooklyn activist Kenneth Powell in demanding justice for their son, who deid on Nov. 20 after a rookie cop shot him in a dark public housing stairwell.
The Brooklyn Paper
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The parents of an unarmed Red Hook man shot to death last month by a rookie police officer broke their silence on Friday, just ahead of Brooklyn’s top prosecutor revealing that he is pursuing charges against the cop.

Akai Gurley’s mother and father held a morning press conference at Brown Memorial Baptist Church in Clinton Hill to call for Officer Peter Liang to be prosecuted for killing Gurley in the dark stairwell of an East New York public housing project on Nov. 20.

“My son was my heart, and now he’s been taken away from me,” said Sylvia Palmer. “I feel like I’m lying in the morgue with him right now. It’s not right. I need justice for my son.”

In an unusual move, District Attorney Ken Thompson announced hours after the tearful gathering that he is working to impanel a grand jury to consider charging Liang.

“I pledge to conduct a full and fair investigation and to give the grand jury all of the information necessary to do its job,” he said.

Akai Gurley died that night after Officer Peter Liang shot him once in the chest inside the Louis H. Pink Houses in East New York. Liang and another cop were sweeping the stairwell, and Liang shot Gurley once in the chest as he entered one flight below, according to cops. Liang had his gun drawn when Gurley opened the door, and Liang fired the fatal shot without warning, according to reports. Police Commissioner Bill Bratton called Gurley a “total innocent” and the shooting an “unfortunate accident.”

Palmer and her husband Kenneth Palmer recalled Gurley as a loving son, brother, and father.

“All I have to say is that my son was a very good son,” said Kenneth Palmer. “My son was my sunshine.”

Gurley’s death came shortly before two grand juries decided not to indict the police officers who killed two Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and Eric Garner, on Staten Island. Marchers have invoked Gurley’s name in chants at the demonstrations that have roiled New York and cities across the country during the past two weeks, decrying the grand jury decisions.

A local activist who joined the grieving parents at the press conference said the deaths circumvented the American legal system in a way that is reminiscent of the country’s racist past.

“We believe that this feels like a series of modern-day lynchings,” said Kenneth Powell, president of the activist group Building Knowledge Nation.

Grand jury proceedings are usually shrouded in near-total secrecy, but their inner workings have become the subject of intense scrutiny in the wake of the Brown and Garner killings. Thompson rejected the notion, voiced by many activists and legal observers regarding those cases, that a governor-appointed special prosecutor would have done a better, fairer job.

“I was elected by the people of Brooklyn to do this job without fear or favor and that is exactly what I intend to do,” Thompson said.

The Palmers pleaded for peace and calm at his memorial service, which is scheduled for Saturday morning.

“Let peace reign,” his father said. “Enjoy the good times that we had with our son and let his soul rest in peace.”

Funeral services for Gurley will be held at 11 am on Dec. 6 at Brown Memorial Baptist Church (484 Washington Ave. at Gates Avenue in Clinton Hill).

Reach reporter Noah Hurowitz at or by calling (718) 260–4505. Follow him on Twitter @noahhurowitz
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reader feedback

Took NYPD 1 second to shoot and 400 seconds to r from death penalty should be asked for this NYPD killer says:
forgot to mention that the NYPD officer didn't call for help. Took him almost 7 minutes to call for help. What did he do for 7 minutes, call and text his Union to know what to say in-order to blame the victim. As if the victim held his hand in a gun position way. At least the shooter was Asian and not white
Dec. 6, 2014, 8:24 am
Common Cents from Crown Heights says:
A properly trained person knows that having your weapon at the ready and having your finger on the trigger are two different things. He wasn't trained properly on clearing and sweeping but was trained to call the union...
Dec. 6, 2014, 10:29 am
JT from Bay Ridge says:
At least this has nothing to do with race.
Dec. 6, 2014, 4:19 pm
Asians are now killing blacks from black life matters for voting for Obama says:
its race. now asians are also killing blacks.
Dec. 6, 2014, 11:39 pm
Captain Block from 53 Pct says:
The #1 person to blame is Ray Kelly... Though Bratton is fast running out on his grace period, between Kerik and Kelly, they've nearly destroyed the NYPD for zero reason but their own arrogance... Bernie got his and if anything, Kelly deserves worse.
Dec. 7, 2014, 12:57 am
bkmanhatman from nubrucklyn says:
@Honest From The Truth

So Akai deserved to get shot for going down the stairs? She and her family deserve what ever compensation given.
And the cop should lose his job as well as his superior officer.
Dec. 8, 2014, 4:09 pm

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