New York City Police Officer Shoots And Kills Unarmed Black Man For Using Stairs In Building
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A New York City police officer fatally shot an unarmed black man Thursday evening after the man and his girlfriend opted to take the stairs instead of the elevator in the woman’s apartment building. The couple encountered two police officers in the dimly lit stairwell as they approached the woman’s floor. One of the officers already had his gun drawn while in the stairwell and shot the man, 28-year-old Akai Gurley, once in the chest as the couple came upon the officers. The officer who killed Gurley has been identified as Peter Liang, a rookie officer who was on a probationary assignment patrolling a housing project.
Michelle Butler, Gurley’s girlfriend, recounted the tragic event to the New York Daily News.
“They didn’t identify themselves,” said Butler, 27, who began dating Gurley in January 2011. “No nothing. They didn’t give no explanation. They just pulled a gun and shot him in the chest.”
The terrified couple ran down to the fifth floor before Gurley collapsed in a pool of blood. Butler, who was standing alongside her boyfriend when he was hit, recalled their frantic final moments together as she begged Gurley to keep fighting.
“Yo, you OK? Talk to me!” she recalled shouting. “He wasn’t saying nothing. That was the last thing I said to him.”
Butler said the officers never came down to check on the mortally wounded man, and medical help was only sent after she banged on a neighbor’s door for help.
NYPD commissioner Bill Bratton held a press conference Friday morning to discuss the shooting incident. He stated that it was “an unfortunate tragedy” and said that it appeared to be “an accidental discharge” of the officer’s weapon. Bratton also pointed out that the building had seen two robberies and four assaults recently, perhaps providing cover to the officer regarding why his weapon was drawn as he entered the stairwell.
DNAinfo, a news website covering New York and Chicago neighborhoods, provided the following tweets from the press conference.
Based on the evidence and the police commissioner’s statements, Gurley was killed for no other reason than being a black man walking up some stairs in a building that had recently witnessed crimes. A nervous police officer had his gun out and as soon as he encountered Gurley, the officer shot first without hesitation. Due to this natural inclination to be prepared to shoot at a moment’s notice, a totally innocent man is dead.
While this may just be an unfortunate “circumstance of events,” it further validates the feeling among the black community that people of color are unfairly treated and targeted by law enforcement. In a September article, Mother Jones provided data from the CDC showing that over the past 40 years, blacks have been four times more likely to be shot and killed by law enforcement than whites. While that disparity shrank last decade, Mother Jones also revealed that over the same time period, the FBI’s stats still showed a 4-to-1 disparity in the rate of justifiable homicides between the two races.
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