NEW YORK – A rookie police officer who fired into a darkened stairwell at a Brooklyn public housing complex, accidentally killing a man who had been waiting for an elevator, has been indicted in the death, a lawyer Tuesday.
Officer Peter Liang will appear in court Thursday in the shooting death of 28-year-old Akai Gurley, according to Peter Rynecki, an attorney representing Gurley's family. The charges against Liang weren't immediately clear.
"This is the first step for justice," Rynecki said.
Patrick J. Lynch, head of Liang's union, said he deserves due process.
"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," Lynch said.
Liang and his rookie partner were patrolling the Louis Pink Houses, a public housing development, in Brooklyn's gritty East New York when the officer apparently accidentally discharged his weapon. Gurley had been standing with a woman on a different floor, and after waiting for an elevator that didn't come, he started walking down the stairs. Gurley was struck and killed, police said.
The shooting occurred Nov. 20 in the weeks before the decision on Staten Island not to indict an officer in the police chokehold death of Eric Garner. The move sparked mass protests and calls for reform of the grand jury system.