There was no excuse offered. Akai Gurley did nothing, absolutely nothing, to cause probationary Police Officer Peter Liang to shoot him in the chest and kill him. Whether Gurley did anything wrong in his life before that, even the cops didn’t have the gall to try to taint him with priors so we wouldn’t feel too badly about his killing. It wouldn’t matter anyway, but that rarely stops people from being stupid enough to connect unrelated dots.
No, Akai Gurley was shot dead for no reason whatsoever. His two-year-old daughter will have no father. The job he was about to start with the city will be filled by someone else. He can’t do it. He’s dead. For no reason.
Police Commissioner Bill Bratton called it an accident.
The shooting, at 11:15 p.m. on Thursday . . . But 12 hours later, just after noon on Friday, the New York police commissioner, William J. Bratton, announced that the shooting was accidental and that the victim, Akai Gurley, had done nothing to provoke a confrontation with the officers.
Bratton is a smart guy. Bratton knows that the triggers on NYPD police sidearms requires 12 pounds of pull to fire the first shot. Bratton knows the difference between an accident and a mistake. An accident is the alternative to deliberate conduct. There is no way a trigger requiring 12 pounds of pull is fired accidentally. It takes a lot of work to pull that trigger. Bratton knows this.
The problem begins with Liang’s poor training and inexperience. NYPD has a long and pathetic history with firearms. City cops are widely ridiculed for their inability to hit anything, for lack of training and practice. When they fire a gun, a bystander is more likely in danger than their target. That’s because they really, truly suck at it, and the NYPD does little to improve the situation.
And yet, the Patrol Guide apparently lets cops pull weapons whenever they’re scared.
Mr. Bratton said that whether an officer should draw his weapon while on patrol when there was no clear threat was a matter of discretion.
“There’s not a specific prohibition against taking a firearm out,” he said, adding, “As in all cases, an officer would have to justify the circumstances that required him to or resulted in his unholstering his firearm.”
That it’s a matter of officer discretion makes some sense, except when one realizes that unfettered discretion means that Officer Tinkerbell gets to pull his gun out whenever he wants, rather than when there is justification to use it.
Since they can’t smear Gurley, the victim, the police have gone the opposite route and blamed it on Pink Houses, a housing project. PBA prez, Patrick Lynch, jumps in for the sake of hyperbole.
“The Pink Houses are among the most dangerous projects in the city, and their stairwells are the most dangerous places in the projects,” he said. “Dimly lit stairways and dilapidated conditions create fertile ground for violent crime, while the constant presence of illegal firearms creates a dangerous and highly volatile environment for police officers and residents alike.”
Bratton offered a slightly more fact-based description.
The shooting occurred in the Louis H. Pink Houses in the East New York neighborhood. The housing project had been the scene of a recent spate of crimes — there have been two robberies and four assaults in the development in the past month, two homicides in the past year, and a shooting in a nearby lobby last Saturday, Mr. Bratton said.
So housing projects have crime? Alert the media. That’s why police patrol them. Liang and his partner, having just checked the roof, entered the stairwell, which was either dimly lit or pitch black, according to which report you check.
Having just inspected the roof, the officers prepared to conduct what is known as a vertical patrol, an inspection of a building’s staircases, which tend to be a magnet for criminal activity or quality-of-life nuisances.
Those quality-of-life nuisances will surely scare the daylights out of a probie. The initial reports stated that Liang drew his gun, while he and his partner held flashlights, doing the “vertical patrol” (which means walking in a stairwell in cop jargon). Liang had no particular reason to draw his weapon. There was no call for criminal activity. There was no sounds that gave rise to fears, whether reasonable or not. There was absolutely nothing to suggest that he had any basis to use his weapon.
No, Liang was afraid. Just a scared rabbit of a kid cop. Stairwells were scary. Bad things could happen in stairwells. Liang was going to make sure that if anything bad happened in that stairwell, it wasn’t going to happen to him. The First Rule of Policing kicked in, even though there was nothing in particular to be afraid of. Better safe than sorry, and Liang anticipated fear and had no plan of getting caught short.
For Akai Gurley, it wasn’t safe to be in a stairwell with a teacup cop, too delicate and afraid to be there without a gun at the ready.
The narrative grew increasingly complex as the police had more time to think about it.
Officer Liang is left-handed, and he tried to turn the knob of the door that opens to the stairwell with that hand while also holding the gun, according to a high-ranking police official who was familiar with the investigation and who emphasized that the account could change.
The account could change? Either it’s the account, or it’s not. Was this the story they were sticking with, or were they leaving the door open in case a better story came along? Clearly, it was the second.
It appears that in turning the knob and pushing the door open, Officer Liang rotated the barrel of the gun down and accidentally fired, the official said. He and the other officer both jumped back into the hallway, and Officer Liang shouted something to the effect that he had accidentally fired his weapon, the official said.
There is only one, just one, piece of this story that doesn’t emit the stench of bullshit: that the bullet that struck Akai Gurley wasn’t aimed at Akai Gurley. That’s because the chances of an NYPD officer hitting his target is slim to none. Then again, even an NYPD rookie should be better trained than to turn a door knob with his gun hand. Hell, even a brain-dead blithering idiot would know better than that.
The story remains that P.O. Liang never meant to shoot Akai Gurley. He had no reason, none, to do so. There was no justification, even with the Police Department’s finest public relations minds on the job, possible. So “accidental” became the talking point. But this was no accident. Liang didn’t go “oops” as his finger somehow pulled the wrong way when he turned the knob. That trigger had to be pulled, and pulled hard, to fire that bullet. Liang pulled it.
Akai Gurley died because some rookie cop was a frightened little bunny. Akai Gurley died because the NYPD fails to adequately train its officers, and have rules prohibiting the drawing of weapons when no threat exists to justify their use. Akai Gurley died because Police Officer Peter Liang put the First Rule of Policing ahead of the life of an innocent human being. Akai Gurley died because Liang killed him.
Update: And the NYPD was sooo close to not being complete assholes for once. But no. Via CBS2:
Gurley has 24 prior arrests on his record, police said.
So now, we don’t feel so bad about his having been killed for nothing. Thanks Bratton. And thanks, CBS2 (and, no doubt, others who will repeat this pointless smear) for disseminating this critical piece of information about a dead man.
Not that it matters, but note that it’s arrests, not convictions. But either way, it’s totally irrelevant.