Hundreds of mourners gathered in Fort Greene at a wake at Brown Memorial Baptist Church Friday night to pay respects to Akai Gurley, the 28-year-old man that was shot and killed on November 20, as he and his girlfriend were walking down the stairs of Louis H. Pink Houses in East New York.
Gurley, who was unarmed, was shot by rookie NYPD officer Peter Liang, while he and his partner were conducting a floor-by-floor sweep of the building.
“I need justice for my son. I want my son to rest in peace with the respect he deserved,” exclaimed a tearful Sylvia Palmer, Gurley’s mother, at the wake. “It’s like I feel like I’m lying in the morgue with him right now. I need my son back.”
Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson has vowed to take the Akai Gurley case to a grand jury. And Congressman Hakeem Jeffries released a statement on Friday calling for a stop to the epidemic of young, unarmed African-American men being killed by police officers without consequence.
“Akai Gurley did not deserve to die, and the evidence of a kill shot that penetrated his chest and struck him in the heart suggests something more than a non-criminal accident,” said Jeffries in the statement. “The decision by the district attorney to take this case to a grand jury is a meaningful step in the right direction. The community will not rest until those responsible for the death of Akai Gurley have been prosecuted to the full extent of the law.”
However, a number of lawmakers are now pushing legislation to require the use of special prosecutors, rather than district attorneys who they say are too close to police, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the legislation was something he would seriously consider.
“Let’s have a real discussion, because this keeps happening and happening and happening, and it’s corrosive,” said Cuomo during an interview on CNN’s “The Situation Room,” following the grand jury decision not to indict the police officer that killed Eric Garner.
“I was surprised like everyone else,” Cuomo said. “When you look at that video tape—the video tape was so stark. It led one to believe that the grand jury was going to come back with an indictment. You look at that video tape and you say, ‘it can’t be. I just can’t be.’”
He told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer that there’s a pattern that goes back a long time that has caused a wedge between citizens and he justice system.
“We talk about Ferguson. But let’s be honest. if you’re here in New York, it’s not just Ferguson. It was Amadou Diallo. It was Trayvon Martin. It was Abner Louima. We have a case now with a young fellow shot in a public housing stairwell,” he said.
“And when you have a significant portion of the population that feels the justice system isn’t working you have a problem. And we have a problem, and let’s acknowledge it.”