Medical examiner rules Gurley’s death ‘homicide’ amid probes

Medical examiner rules Gurley’s death ‘homicide’ amid probes

He was shot in a poorly lit staircase in East New York.

Akisha Pringle (18), sister of Akai Gurley and her niece Akaila Gurley (2), seen onstage at National Action Network headquarters in Harlem on Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014.
Akisha Pringle (18), sister of Akai Gurley and her niece Akaila Gurley (2), seen onstage at National Action Network headquarters in Harlem on Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014. Photo Credit: FLICKR/kkanouse

The city’s chief medical examiner Monday called the death of an unarmed man at the hands of a rookie cop a homicide.

The medical examiner ruled that Akai Gurley, 28, died from a gunshot wound to the torso. He was shot during an ill-fated encounter with 27-year-old officer Peter Liang and his partner in a poorly lit staircase in East New York’s Pink Houses Thursday night. Police Commissioner Bill Bratton had described the shooting as a tragic accident and said that Gurley was “a total innocent.”

The medical examiner’s office in a statement stressed that the homicide ruling has no bearing on “intent or culpability.”

Gurley entered the stairwell from the seventh floor with his girlfriend Melissa Butler, who lives at the Pink Houses, police said. They ran into the officers coming down from the eighth floor around 11:15 p.m., with Liang holding a flashlight and his gun at the time of the shooting, according to police. The NYPD’s Internal Affairs Bureau is handling the investigation.

Charles Barron speaks during a news conference with Melissa Butler at the Office of the Brooklyn District Attorney in Brooklyn on Monday Nov. 24, 2014. Butler was with Akai Gurley when he was shot inside the stairwell.
Charles Barron speaks during a news conference with Melissa Butler at the Office of the Brooklyn District Attorney in Brooklyn on Monday Nov. 24, 2014. Butler was with Akai Gurley when he was shot inside the stairwell. Photo Credit: Theodore Parisienne

Meanwhile, the Brooklyn district attorney’s civil rights unit is pursuing its own investigation, a spokeswoman said. Reps. Hakeem Jeffries and Nydia Velazquez of Brooklyn met on Sunday with the District Attorney Kenneth Thompson about a probe.

Thompson on Friday said Gurley’s “deeply troubling” death warrants an “immediate, fair and thorough investigation.”

DAN RIVOLI