Officer in Fatal Shooting Reportedly Texted Union Rep Instead of Calling Ambulance While Victim Bled

An officer involved in a fatal shooting in a Brooklyn project texted his union representative rather than immediately calling for medical assistance, according to a report in the New York Daily News.

As rookie officer Peter Liang and his partner entered a darkened stairwell of a Pink Houses high-rise on the night of 20 November, his gun discharged and a bullet struck the torso of 28-year-old Akai Gurley, who was with his girlfriend on the seventh-floor landing.

Quoting a number of unnamed law enforcement sources, the Daily News said that after the incident neither Liang nor his partner, Shaun Landau, could be reached by their superiors for more than six minutes. The New York police department (NYPD) reportedly learned of the incident from a neighbor’s 911 call, after which it attempted and failed to reach Liang and Landau.

If his office decides to move forward on a case, Brooklyn district attorney Kenneth Thompson could present evidence to a grand jury, which would then decide whether Liang or Landau should be charged with any crimes. Thompson’s office said only that it had no further comment on “an ongoing investigation”.

Thompson previously called the shooting “deeply troubling” and said he would lead “a fair and thorough investigation”.

Kenneth Montgomery, the lawyer representing Gurley’s parents, told the Guardian the allegations, “if in fact true, [are] egregious on several fronts”. He said a grand jury could view such actions “as criminally negligent or an act of depravity”, revealing “a lack of humanity” on the part of Liang.

An NYPD spokesperson refused to comment on the case.

Gurley’s case is one of several in recent months in which the killing of an unarmed black man by police has provoked outrage and calls for change and accountability in law enforcement. On Wednesday, a Staten Island grand jury chose not to indict NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo for using a chokehold in an arrest that caused the death of a 43-year-old man, Eric Garner. 

Also on Wednesday, it emerged that a Cleveland police officer who shot and killed Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old boy carrying a fake gun, had previously been deemed unfit for duty.

A law enforcement source told the Daily News the officers’ decision not to radio for help was mystifying: “The guy is dying and you still haven’t called it in?” The source said Liang and Landau eventually reported an accidental discharge.

Other sources said officers at the housing development had been explicitly ordered not to patrol the stairwells, a tactic known as “verticals”. After Gurley was shot in the chest, he and his girlfriend hobbled to find help two floors below. Gurley was pronounced dead at Brookdale Hospital later that night.

Liang had only 18 months of experience in active duty but had “done verticals before”, a police source told the paper.

New York police commissioner Bill Bratton described the shooting as “a very unfortunate tragedy” and officials have sought to frame it as an accident. Bratton acknowledged that Gurley was “totally innocent”.

After the shooting, Congressman Hakeem Jeffries called for accountability and reform in the NYPD, criticizing the consequences of Bratton’s controversial “broken windows” policy, which aggressively targets minor crimes. Jeffries said the policy would create “an aggressive mindset toward young men of color”.

Services were scheduled to be held for Gurley on Friday and Saturday.

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