Mourners mark 3 months since police killed man in stairwell

AP News
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Posted: Feb 20, 2015 8:52 PM
Mourners mark 3 months since police killed man in stairwell

NEW YORK (AP) — Friends and relatives of an unarmed man shot by police in a darkened stairwell at a public housing complex released two doves and two dozen balloons there Friday to mark three months since his death.

Akai Gurley was headed to the lobby at the Louis Pink Houses in Brooklyn on Nov. 20 when he stepped into the pitch black stairwell. Officer Peter Liang and his partner were patrolling the complex on another floor, and Liang fired a shot that ricocheted and struck Gurley.

Gurley, 28, made it down two flights of stairs before he collapsed and later died. Liang has been indicted in the death.

Gurley's domestic partner, Kimberly Ballinger, stood Friday in front of a makeshift memorial that included four candles and a photo of him.

"Today marks three months since Akai passed away," she said. "I miss his personality and his relationship with his child."

Ballinger, standing with Gurley's 2-year-old daughter, Akaila, said that Friday was the first time she would take to the streets since Liang was indicted.

"We'll keep fighting until justice is finally served," Ballinger said.

Liang, 27, was charged with manslaughter and official misconduct. His attorney has said the shooting was an accident.

Gurley's aunt Hertencia Petersen, who joined about two dozen mourners, said her family would continue to fight to keep his legacy alive. Neighbor Vincent Riggins said he came to mourn his friend.

"What happened to Akai is just egregious. There is no explanation for it," he said. "We'd like to see justice, and we'd like a change to police policy."

He said he wanted to see an end to the policing practice that brought the officers to the complex in the first place, called "broken windows": cracking down on low-level offenses in the belief it helps suppress bigger ones.

"There's an over-policing in communities like ours," he said. "We are not against police officers. They are following a policy, an egregious policy, and we're trying to bring attention to that."

The small group marched from the Pink Houses to a community center about a mile away in the bitter cold.

Police Commissioner William Bratton is a proponent of the broken windows theory of policing, and Mayor Bill De Blasio has called him "the finest police leader in the United States of America."

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Associated press photographer Bebeto Matthews contributed to this report.