The trial for the police officer accused of fatally shooting an unarmed black man, Akai Gurley, in a stairwell last year will begin on Jan. 7. The date was set during a hearing in Brooklyn Supreme Court on Tuesday.
“We look forward [to] the trial date. We’re looking for a conviction,” Gurley’s domestic partner, Kimberly Ballinger, said in front of the court house after the hearing. “These last 10 months have been very hard. Akai’s death has been hard for not only me, but for both of my children.”
Officer Peter Liang, who showed no emotion and faced forward during the short hearing, was patrolling in a dark Brooklyn housing project on Nov. 20 and holding a flashlight and his gun when it went off. The bullet fatally struck Akai Gurley, 28, who was in the stairwell below.
Liang then texted his police union representative for several minutes after the shooting while Gurley lay in the stairwell, according to reports.
Following the shooting, Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said it was a “very unfortunate tragedy” and that Gurley was “a total innocent.”
Scott Rynecki, the attorney for the Gurley family, said they will be there for every day of the trial. His domestic partner and aunt were in the courtroom during yesterday’s hearing.
Liang can choose to have his trial in front of jury or a panel of judges.
“There was absolute recklessness on behalf of this officer to have his gun in his hand and his finger on the trigger so as to allow it to discharge, recklessly causing the death of Akai Gurley,” Rynecki said. “Akai was a loving father who would take his children to school every day, who was there to help these children grow up. Now they no longer have a father thanks to recklessness of this police officer.”
The wrongful death lawsuit Ballinger filed against the city and the officers involved is still pending, Rynecki said Tuesday.
A rally is planned for the Nov. 20 anniversary of Gurley’s death, which will take place at the Pink Houses where he was shot and several area police precincts.