The NYPD probationary officer who fatally shot an unarmed black man in the pitch-black stairwell of a Brooklyn housing complex had no reason to have his gun drawn and less reason to have his finger near or on the trigger — other than fear, says a former high-ranking cop.
“They [cops] get afraid. He was afraid,” the former top cop said of Officer Peter Liang, who shot and killed 27-year-old Akai Gurley on Thursday.
The Louis H. Pink Houses in East New York is among the city’s most dangerous housing complexes. There were two robberies and four assaults there in the last month and two homicides in the past year, according to NYPD figures.
“I understand how dangerous some of those housing projects are,” said the source, one of several current and former NYPD officers who spoke on condition of anonymity because they don’t want to publicly criticize other officers. “But unless there is a reason such as a radio run or a report for a man with a gun, there is no reason to draw your weapon when you patrol.”
An NYPD official said reforms Police Commissioner Bill Bratton promised, such as teaming rookies with experienced officers, have yet to be implemented because of manpower issues.
Gurley’s shooting comes at a sensitive time for police with the impending grand jury decision in the chokehold death of Eric Garner in Staten Island and yesterday’s grand jury findings in the fatal police shooting of a teen in Ferguson, Missouri.
It can be seen as positive that there appears to be no attempt to justify the police action or to discredit the person killed, as in prior NYPD shootings.
Bratton has called Gurley “a total innocent” who “was not engaged in any criminal activity.” Another former top police official said the NYPD has “made a concerted effort to say that the victim did nothing wrong.”
Some people have not been assuaged by the NYPD response. In a rally, a group called for Bratton’s firing while others displayed “Wanted for Murder” posters of the officer.
Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-Brooklyn) said in a statement: “The senseless killing of another unarmed African-American male by the NYPD should shock the conscience of all New Yorkers and the nation.” Apparently referring to the police explanations, the statement read, “Talk is cheap.”
Yes, it is.