BROOKLYN (PIX11) –A 28-year-old man was shot in the chest and killed when a police officer’s gun “accidentally discharged” inside a housing development’s dimly lit staircase, NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton said.
Bratton released preliminary information in the case at a Friday afternoon news conference:
"What happened last night was a very unfortunate tragedy, the deceased is totally innocent. He just happened to be in the hallway. He was not engaged in any criminal activity."
It happened about 11:15 p.m. Thursday at the Pink Houses, located at 2724 Linden Blvd. in the East New York section of Brooklyn.
Two officers part of a "violence reduction overtime detail" were patrolling the building when they walked into a dimly lit stairwell on the eighth-floor.
They were there as part of beefed up security efforts after a recent uptick in crime at the housing development. In the past few months, there have been four assaults and two robberies at the Pink Houses, and two homicides in the past year.
Just last weekend, a shooting took place in the lobby of another apartment building in the complex.
Against this backdrop, when the officers entered the dark staircase Thursday night, one of them drew his flashlight and weapon, Bratton said. The other did not take out his gun.
That's when Akai Gurley walked into the staircase a floor below the officers. In the near-darkness, the armed officer's weapon discharged once, hitting the man in the chest, Bratton said.
Residents of the Pink Houses say the lights in the stairwell have been out for some time.
"They should have fixed them a long time ago," Daniel Daily said.
The Gurley was taken to a hospital where he was pronounced dead, police said. The officers were taken to a hospital to be treated for tinnitus, a ringing in the ears likely caused by the sound of a gunshot in a confined space.
Councilman Charles Barron says the lights are an irrelevant defense for an officer discharging his gun.
"They would know they can't pull out their guns even if the lights are out. They have to identify themselves," Barron said.
The Brooklyn District Attorney's office released a statement saying:
"As we continue to gather the facts, the fatal shooting of this unarmed man is deeply troubling and warrants an immediate, fair and thorough investigation. Many questions must be answered, including whether, as reported, the lights in the hallway were out for a number of days, and how this tragedy actually occurred."