A rookie New York City police officer is expected to surrender Wednesday to face criminal charges in the November shooting death of an unarmed man, according to a city official and a lawyer involved in the case.
A grand jury in Brooklyn returned an indictment today against Officer Peter Liang, who was 18 months out of the police academy when he shot and killed Akai Gurley in a dimly lit stairwell of a Brooklyn public housing project.
Police have said Liang fired by accident.
At the time of the shooting, Police Commissioner Bill Bratton called Gurley “a total innocent.”
“He just happened to be in that hallway as the officers were entering,” Bratton said at a news conference after the shooting. “He was not engaged in any criminal activity of any type.”
Liang was patrolling the stairwell of Pink Houses in East New York the morning of November 20 with his gun drawn. Police have said the gun may have jostled as he opened a door. The single bullet that killed Gurley had ricocheted off the wall.
Scott Rynecki, the attorney for Gurley’s domestic partner Kimberly Ballinger, said he was advised that Liang will surrender Wednesday and appear in court when charges would be unsealed.
“This is the first step for the family in their fight for justice in the wrongful death and shooting of Akai Gurley,” Rynecki said.
Asked about the case, the office of Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement: "It has been reported that a Brooklyn grand jury has acted in this case. 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."
Meanwhile, Brooklyn boro pres Eric Adams said: “It is my continued hope that the death of Akai Gurley will give life to much-needed reforms that will make the community and law enforcement alike safer.”
The shooting happened as emotions roiled across the country about police shootings of unarmed men. Gurley was killed around the time a grand jury in Staten Island cleared the NYPD officer primarily involved in the chokehold death of Eric Garner.
“This officer deserves the same due process afforded to anyone involved in the accidental death of another,” PBA president Patrick J. 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.”