Activist Sharpton calls for investigation into police shooting of Brooklyn man
(Reuters) – Civil rights activist Reverend Al Sharpton on Saturday called for an investigation into the shooting death of an unarmed man by a New York police officer inside a dark stairwell at a Brooklyn housing project.
New York City Police Commissioner William Bratton said the Thursday night shooting of Akai Gurley, 28, might have been unintentional, with the officer’s gun accidentally discharging.
Sharpton, speaking Saturday at the Harlem headquarters of his National Action Network civil rights group, called on the Brooklyn district attorney to perform a full investigation into the incident.
“They (police) are saying it was an accident. We are saying how do they know until there is a thorough investigation,” Sharpton said.
Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson said in a statement Friday the shooting “warrants an immediate, fair and thorough investigation.”
Sharpton was joined on stage Saturday by Gurley’s widow and two-year-old daughter. He said the unarmed man’s death was the latest in a string of incidents across the country in which police are accused of using excessive force.
He pointed to the case of Eric Garner, who died in July after being placed in a banned chokehold by a New York City police officer, and the August shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, in Ferguson, Missouri.
“From Staten Island to Ferguson, now back to Brooklyn in the Pink Houses, it’s time for us to stop ducking the issue and dealing with the issue of police misconduct,” Sharpton said, referring to the informal name of the housing project where the incident unfolded.
A Missouri grand jury is currently deciding whether to indict the white police officer who shot Brown. The teen’s death kicked off weeks of angry protests in Ferguson and calls for officer Darren Wilson’s immediate arrest.
In the Brooklyn shooting incident, a rookie officer performing what is known as a vertical patrol of the stairwells of the Louis H. Pink Houses in the East New York neighborhood fired off one shot, striking Gurley in the chest.
Officer Peter Liang, 27, was carrying a lit flashlight and unholstered his gun as he entered the dark stairwell, police said. Gurley was using the stairwell because of a long wait for an elevator, police said.
“What happened last night was a very unfortunate tragedy,” Police Commissioner Bratton said on Friday. “It appears to be an accidental discharge with no intention to strike anybody at this time,” Bratton said.
He also called Gurley a “total innocent.”
(Reporting by Victoria Cavaliere in Seattle, editing by G Crosse)