Grand Jury indicts Brooklyn police officer Peter Liang in the shooting death of Akai Gurley

by Calvin Fortenberry

Akai Gurley lived and died in Brooklyn’s Pink Houses. The police officer who “accidentally” shot him in a “pitch black” stairwell never called an ambulance; instead, he called his union rep for advice. The ambulance was called by other residents of the public housing complex. Neighbors call Akai a peacemaker.
Akai Gurley lived and died in Brooklyn’s Pink Houses. The police officer who “accidentally” shot him in a “pitch black” stairwell never called an ambulance; instead, he called his union rep for advice. The ambulance was called by other residents of the public housing complex. Neighbors call Akai a peacemaker.

The NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund supports the decision of the Brooklyn grand jury to indict NYPD Officer Peter Liang for the crime of manslaughter in the killing of Akai Gurley in November of 2014. Mr. Gurley was, in the words of New York City Police Commissioner Bill Bratton, a “total innocent,” who was shot and killed while walking in the stairwell of the Pink Houses, a public housing development in Brooklyn.

“I miss my daddy,” 2-year-old Akaila Gurley told the crowd at a protest. – Photo: Reuters
“I miss my daddy,” 2-year-old Akaila Gurley told the crowd at a protest. – Photo: Reuters

While the indictment for manslaughter is the minimum criminal homicide charge that Officer Laing should have faced, it marks a significant departure from the decisions of the Staten Island, New York, and Ferguson, Missouri, grand juries not to indict police officers in the high profile killings of Eric Garner and Michael Brown. Those decisions sparked peaceful national protests and inspired LDF’s call for such federal reforms as stricter accountability measures and training for police, as well as a national database documenting the cases of unarmed African-American men killed by police officers.

LDF believes that today’s indictment in the Gurley case, and the subsequent public proceedings, are important first steps toward achieving the transparency and accountability necessary to prevent other such tragedies from occurring again.

Sherrilyn Ifill
Sherrilyn Ifill

“We are gratified that D.A. Ken Thompson moved this process along quickly. This is a positive step in the right direction, and at this moment we can say that our justice system is working the way it is intended to work,” said Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

“Police officers, who set the highest standard for conduct and behavior should be held accountable just as any ordinary citizen would if they fired a weapon without cause,” she declared. “We hope that the facts of the case unfold in an impartial manor and that there is a full accounting of why Mr. Gurley was shot for no other reason than being at the wrong place at the wrong time.”

LDF believes that today’s indictment in the Gurley case, and the subsequent public proceedings, are important first steps toward achieving the transparency and accountability necessary to prevent other such tragedies from occurring again.

Calvin Fortenberry can be reached at cfortenberry@naacpldf.org. NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF), is a leading voice in the struggle to ensure equal opportunity for all Americans. Founded in 1940 under the leadership of Thurgood Marshall, LDF has been recognized as the nation’s finest civil rights law firm. Although initially affiliated with the NAACP, LDF has been an entirely separate organization since 1957.