The mother of Akai Gurley's child filed a wrongful death lawsuit today against the Police Department, NYCHA, and the two officers who were patrolling the dark stairwell of an East New York public housing development on November 20th, 2014, when, without warning, one fatally shot him.
The suit accuses Officer Peter Liang, who fired the deadly round, and his partner Shaun Landau with being reckless and negligent by patrolling the stairs when they had specifically been told not to do so, and faults the Housing Authority for failing to maintain the lights. It also charges that Liang had no reason to shoot or even have his gun out, a claim that is also at the core of criminal manslaughter charges that Brooklyn prosecutors brought against him.
Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson has said that the two officers debated what to do for four minutes after the shooting, without rendering medical aid, and this too is mentioned in the lawsuit.
The Daily News got an advance tip about the lawsuit and shared this from Kimberly Ballinger, Gurley's live-in girlfriend, about their daughter:
"She asks all the time if she can go to daddy's house in heaven," Ballinger told the Daily News. "I say, 'Daddy's here, he's in our hearts, we just can't see him.'"
Ballinger asked the little girl "Where's daddy?" and Akaila pointed up to the sky.
The city's Law Department said it is reviewing the lawsuit.
Gurley's death came amid protests over the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown. Liang is Chinese American and some Chinese New Yorkers have protested his indictment saying he is being scapegoated and that his prosecution shows a double standard, because white officers went uncharged in the Garner and Brown cases. Other Chinese activist groups in New York have joined the ongoing Black Lives Matter protests on the side of Gurley's family.
Ballinger's lawyer, Scott Rynecki, is a law partner of Sanford Rubenstein, a longtime ally of Al Sharpton who was publicly cut off from Sharpton amid rape accusations that ultimately did not yield criminal charges. Gurley's family angrily accused Sharpton of trying to hijack Gurley's funeral by declaring himself the eulogist.