NEW YORK (AP) — The family of an unarmed man fatally shot by a police officer in a Brooklyn housing project stairway said Thursday that it intends to file a lawsuit seeking $50 million.
Kimberly Ballinger, the domestic partner of Akai Gurley and mother of his toddler daughter, filed one claim against the city, the New York Police Department and officers Peter Liang and Shaun Landau. Another notice of claim was filed against the New York City Housing Authority.
“The shooting death of Akai by the police was reckless and should not have happened,” Ballinger said at a news conference. “Akai was a great father and a good person who didn’t deserve to die like he did.”
Ballinger said their toddler and her older child ask for him every day.
The children wonder, “‘Can we go heaven and get Akai? Can we bring him home?’” she said. “That’s very devastating.”
A notice of claim has to be filed before a lawsuit. Sometimes claims are settled before the actual lawsuits are filed.
Gurley, 28, was killed Nov. 20 by Liang, who had his gun drawn as he was patrolling a dark stairwell in the housing project. Gurley and his girlfriend opened a door into the stairwell, and Liang fired without a word and apparently by accident, police said. Police Commissioner William Bratton has said Gurley was “totally innocent.”
The city’s Law Department said, “This was a tragic incident and the city will review the claim.”
Brooklyn District Attorney Kenneth Thompson said at the time that he would investigate the shooting and present it to a grand jury. Gurley’s shooting became part of a larger nationwide movement of concern over how police use deadly force.
His wake in early December, where he was spoken of lovingly as a father and a son, came shortly after a grand jury on Staten Island decided not to indict another police officer in the chokehold death of another unarmed man, Eric Garner, and a grand jury in Missouri decided against indicting a police officer in the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown, who was also unarmed.
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