A memorial for Akai Gurley, the unarmed 28-year-old black man shot by a rookie cop in the dark stairwell of a New York City Housing Authority building, is set to take place this evening in Brooklyn.
The NYPD, for one, appears to be expecting a large turnout. By Thursday night, the department had already dropped off a large stack of metal barricades at the corner of Washington and Gates.
A viewing of Gurley’s body is scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. at Brown Memorial Baptist Church in Clinton Hill; the service itself will commence at 7 p.m. Both will be open to the public. Reverend Al Sharpton, who has called for a thorough investigation of the shooting, will deliver the eulogy. Gurley’s family, including his mother, father, and two-year-old daughter, is also expected to attend.
A spokeswoman for Brooklyn District Attorney Kenneth Thompson confirmed that his office is conducting an investigation into the shooting, but she refused to say whether the D.A. planned to convene a grand jury to consider criminal charges against the officer involved.
The memorial comes two days after a grand jury on Staten Island declined to indict Daniel Pantaleo, the NYPD officer who administered the chokehold that killed Eric Garner in July.
Gurley was shot on 11:15 p.m. on Thursday, November 20, at the Louis Heaton Pink Houses in East New York. An aspiring model, he was leaving a friend’s apartment after getting his hair braided. He was hit in the chest by a 9mm bullet almost immediately upon entering the hallway. (He and his girlfriend opted to take the stairs when the elevator took too long to come.)
The shot was fired by 27-year-old Peter Liang, an officer who had been with the force for less than 18 months. Almost immediately, Police Commissioner William Bratton declared the shooting an accidental discharge, and Gurley “a total innocent.”
The day after the shooting, the New York Times published an explanation of the events given by an unnamed but “high-ranking” police official. “Officer Liang is left-handed, and he tried to turn the knob of the door that opens to the stairwell with that hand while also holding the gun,” the official said, while also stressing that the account could still change.
On Friday, the New York Daily News reported that for more than six minutes following the shooting, Liang and his partner were unreachable by both their commanding officer and 911 operator; according to the paper’s sources, Liang was texting his union representative during the same time.
Earlier this year, the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Department offered $3 million “emergency safety and security grants” for housing authorities around the country. NYCHA applied for one of the grants, money that could have been used to go toward, among other things, lights like the ones that were out in the stairwell at the Louis Heaton Pink Houses the night Gurley was shot.
NYCHA’s application was denied, the Daily News reported in November, because, according to HUD, it “was not complete and did not meet the minimum threshold requirements.”