The rookie cop who shot and killed an unarmed man in a Brooklyn housing project stairwell Thursday night has remained in seclusion since the incident. Officer Peter Liang, who lives with his parents in Bensonhurst, has barely left his bedroom, according to one neighbor who told the Times, "Peter can’t stop thinking about what happens [sic]. He would just say, ‘It was so dark. I was so scared.' "
Liang, 27, and Akai Gurley, 28, fatefully crossed paths in a pitch-black stairwell at the Pink Houses in East New York shortly after 11 p.m. on Thursday. Gurley had entered the stairwell with his girlfriend just as Office Liang entered with his partner one flight up. In what the NYPD Commissioner described as an "accidental discharge," Liang fired one round, fatally hitting Gurley in the chest.
Yesterday the NYC Medical Examiner ruled the death a homicide, having determined that the cause of death was a gunshot wound to the torso. A spokesperson for the office stressed that the homicide determination "does not imply any culpability, it just means that the person died because of someone else."
“They are saying it was an accident,” Rev. Al Sharpton said at a rally in Harlem on Saturday, alongside Gurley's 2-year-old daughter and her mother. “We’re saying how do we know until there is a thorough investigation? We’re not demonizing the police, [but] this young man should not be dead." A statement from the group ANSWER declared, "This is the deadly consequence of the increasing militarization of the police, from New York City to Ferguson and beyond."
The Times spoke with those who knew Gurley, whom Bratton described as "a total innocent."
Before the shooting, Mr. Gurley, had been on his way up in life, friends said. Childhood hopes of a music career were behind him, his good looks brought modeling work, and his determination had recently landed him something more steady after several months of searching: a job offer from the city housing authority.
He told friends that he was relieved to have a reliable paycheck to help provide for his 2-year-old daughter, Akaila, and her mother, Kimberly Michelle Ballinger.
“He was happy that he was about to go to work, he was relieved,” said Mr. Dente Crosby, 28, a friend of several years.
The fatal shooting is being investigated by NYPD Internal Affairs and the Brooklyn DA's office. One police source told the Times, "This is a result of poor in-street field training; you literally had the blind leading the blind out there."