NYPD officer's fatal stairwell shooting contrasts with police chokehold death

A New York City police officer was charged with manslaughter Wednesday in a shooting in a housing project stairwell. The decision by a grand jury in Brooklyn to indict Officer Peter Liang in the death of Akai Gurley comes after a Staten Island grand jury declined to bring criminal charges against police in the chokehold death of Eric Garner. Here are some differences between the two cases.


Garner and Gurley were both unarmed black men. Garner, 43 and a father of six, was a former employee of the city Parks Department who was unable to work because of health issues. He died July 17, 2014, as Officer Daniel Pantaleo and other officers were trying to arrest him for selling loose, untaxed cigarettes.

Gurley, 28, had a young daughter. He had been waiting for an elevator when he was shot by Liang on Nov. 20, 2014, in a pitch-dark stairwell of the Louis Pink Houses in the East New York section of Brooklyn.


Pantaleo, 29, was an eight-year veteran of the NYPD. He has been on modified assignment, stripped of his gun and badge, since Garner's death. Liang, 27, had less than two years in the department when he shot Gurley. He has been placed on modified assignment as well.


A cellphone video of the fatal encounter between police officers and Garner shows Pantaleo putting his arm around Garner's neck and pulling him to the ground. Garner can be heard repeatedly shouting "I can't breathe." Garner lost consciousness and was pronounced dead at a hospital. The city medical examiner's office ruled the death a homicide caused by "compression of neck (choke hold), compression of chest and prone positioning during physical restraint by police."

Gurley was shot as Liang patrolled the stairwell by flashlight with his gun drawn. Liang was about 10 feet from Gurley when, without a word, he fired a shot.


A grand jury announced Dec. 3 that it would bring no criminal charges against Pantaleo in Garner's death. Pantaleo said he was using a legal takedown maneuver. "It is never my intention to harm anyone and I feel very bad about the death of Mr. Garner." Protests followed the grand jury decision in Garner's death and a similar decision in the Aug. 9 death of Michael Brown, also an unarmed black man who was killed by police in Ferguson, Missouri.

Liang was charged Wednesday with manslaughter, official misconduct and other charges in Gurley's death. Police said the shooting was accidental and Commissioner William Bratton called Gurley "totally innocent."