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NYPD, Housing Authority Complicit in Akai Gurley Death: Lawsuit

Wrongful death claim says officers, police department, and housing authority 'negligently and recklessly' complicit in death of unarmed black man last year

Akai Gurley, pictured, was killed last November by a New York City police officer. (Screenshot)

The family of Akai Gurley, the unarmed black man who was shot dead by a police officer in a Brooklyn housing project last year, has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against New York City.

Gurley's partner, Kimberly Ballinger, brought the suit on behalf of his estate and their two-year-old daughter, Akaila. It names the officer who shot Gurley—Peter Liang—as well as his partner, Shaun Landau, the New York City Police Department, and the New York City Housing Authority. The lawsuit was filed Thursday in Brooklyn Supreme Court.

Gurley, 28, was killed when Liang entered the Louis Heaton Pink housing project in East New York last November and fired his gun up an unlit stairwell, which Gurley was descending at the time.

The lawsuit says Liang shot Gurley "negligently and recklessly" and charges that both officers failed to provide adequate medical care after the shooting. It also says the city was negligent "in training, hiring, supervision and retention of the police officers involved in this incident" and in training officers on "the use and abuse of power while in the field."

It also says the housing authority created a "hazardous and traplike condition" in the stairwell by not providing sufficient lighting.

Liang was indicted on several charges in February, including second-degree manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide.

Ballinger's lawyer, Scott Rynecki, said during a press conference Thursday that "there was no reason or provocation" for Liang to have his gun out of its holster when entering the project. He said he hopes the lawsuit will push the city to independently review the training officers receive on weapons handling.

Ballinger also said that "it's very hard and difficult to not have Akai in the home," and that his daughter asks about him every day. "I will be in court every time to make sure that justice for him is kept, that justice for him is received."

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