What Will the Brooklyn District Attorney Do to Achieve Justice for Akai Gurley?
Police killings resulting in no accountability have happened one after the other: Eric Garner in July, and Michael Brown in August. In both cases, grand juries convened by prosecutors returned no indictments of the officers involved. Public emotions are heightened, understandably, and rightfully so.
On the heels of those cases, in New York City there is another recent case of a police officer killing an unarmed Black man, which has yet to be resolved. This case has received less media attention, but it is especially egregious.
The ‘Tragic Accident’ of Akai Gurley’s Death at the Hands of a NYPD Patrol Officer
In late November Akai Gurley, a 28-year-old man, was walking in an apartment building stairwell with his girlfriend when a police officer, conducting a vertical patrol of the building, shot and killed him. New York City Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said the shooting was a “tragic accident.” The New York City medical examiner ruled the death a homicide.
Akai was doing nothing wrong. He was not suspected of a committing a crime.
The incident happened in Brooklyn and is now under investigation by the Kings County District Attorney’s Office.
In 2004 a similar case happened in Brooklyn. Timothy Stansbury, an unarmed teen, also going about the business of life in his apartment building, was shot and killed by a “startled” police officer. Then-District Attorney Charles Hynes convened a grand jury. That panel decided not to indict the police officer based on the evidence prosecutors presented. There was no accountability for the death of Timothy.
But as of January, Brooklyn has a new district attorney, Kenneth Thompson.
After Michael Brown and now Eric Garner, how will Thompson handle the wrongful-death case of Akai Gurley? Like his predecessor, will he convene a grand jury? Or will he charge the police officer? Pass the case to federal prosecutors?