Last month, a rookie cop, Peter Liang, shot and killed an unarmed black man in a dark stairwell in a housing project in East New York City, the New York Daily News reported.
Akai Gurley, 28, and his girlfriend had just entered the stairwell when, according to the Daily News, “probationary Officer Peter Liang’s .9mm accidentally discharged, with a bullet ricocheting off the wall and tearing into his chest.”
Sources have now said that, instead of calling for help during the more than six minutes in which Liang and his partner could not be reach after his weapon discharged, Liang was texting his police union representative.
“That’s showing negligence,” a law enforcement source told the Daily News about regarding the officers’ decision to text the representative rather than radioing for help. “The guy is dying and you still haven’t called it in?”
The shooting is currently under investigation by Brooklyn District Attorney Kenneth Thompson, who could bring evidence to a grand jury possibly by the end of December.
Other problems surrounding this incident are that the police officers didn’t know the exact address of the housing project they were in and weren’t even supposed to be conducting these type of patrols, known as “verticals,” in the first place.
Deputy Inspector Miguel Iglesias, then head officer of the local housing command, had ordered officers to instead police the exterior of the building in response to reports of violence at the housing project.
Confirming that the officers had, in fact, conducted verticals before, a police source said Iglesias’ philosophy was that he “wanted a presence on the street, in the courtyards – and if they go into the buildings they were just supposed to check out the lobby.
Another source said Iglesias was angry after the shooting, and said that he had told them not to conduct verticals.
Police Commissioner Bill Bratton called the shooting an “unfortunate tragedy” and accident.
“Officials said Liang was holding a flashlight in his right hand and a Glock 9-mm. in the other when he opened the door to the eighth floor landing,” reported the Daily News. “One bullet flew out and apparently ricocheted into the chest of Gurley, who was in the seventh floor landing and taking the stairs with his girlfriend Melissa Butler, 27.”
Gurley managed to stumble to the fifth floor, and Butler knocked on a door on the fourth floor and had another resident call 911.
While the shooting may have truly been accident – the stairwell was pitch black as there was a known problem with the lighting, the officers actions afterwards could be considered criminal liability, according to court insiders.
“I would be surprised if it is not at least presented to a grand jury,” said Kenneth Montgomery, an attorney working for Gurley’s parents. “It’s a debacle and it speaks of criminal negligence.”
The accidental discharge of a weapon most definitely creates a chaotic situation. But taking nearly seven minutes to radio for help when you know someone has been shot shows not only a lack of judgement, but that the cops were more concerned for their careers than they were the life of the man who was just shot for absolutely no reason.