A grand jury will examine the shooting death of an unarmed man by a rookie police officer in a darkened public housing stairwell, the Brooklyn district attorney said Friday, hours before a memorial for the slain man.
The developments in the case surrounding Akai Gurley's death came two days after a grand jury on Staten Island decided criminal charges weren't warranted against a different police officer in the chokehold death of another unarmed man, Eric Garner. The Garner case — coming on the heels of a Missouri grand jury's decision not to indict a police officer in the fatal shooting of an unarmed 18-year-old in Ferguson — has sparked debate around the country about the grand jury process.
Brooklyn DA Kenneth Thompson said he would convene a grand jury "because it is important to get to the bottom of what happened."
"I pledge to conduct a full and fair investigation and to give the grand jury all of the information necessary to do its job," Thompson said in a statement. He said the information was still being gathered, and there was no timetable for when the grand jury would begin its work.
Gurley, 28, and his girlfriend opened a door to a pitch-dark stairway Nov. 20 as a rookie officer, patrolling by flashlight with his gun drawn, was descending the stairs one floor up, police said. City police often make roof-down patrols of public housing stairwells, as some are havens for crime.
Police officials have said Officer Peter Liang's gun may have discharged by accident, striking Gurley, the father of a 2-year-old child, and killing him.
The medical examiner has ruled the death a homicide.
The Rev. Al Sharpton initially planned to speak at Gurley's service Friday but later said he would pay his respects but not speak.
Gurley's funeral is scheduled for Saturday.