As I typed “Akai Gurley” into my search bar, “Akai Gurley criminal record” appeared as a suggested search. My blood boiled. A man is dead. A son, lover, and father of two is gone. There was no arrest, intention to arrest, reason for arrest, or even exchanged words between Gurley and the officer whose bullet ricocheted off a wall and pierced his chest, killing him within minutes. Yet, enough people connected “unarmed black man” and “police officer” to a movement with a bad name in the media. Determined to undermine and dismiss anything the movement may find its way to, these people searched for a reason, excuse, or distraction.
On that tragic night, Akai Gurley visited The Louis Pink Houses of East New York, one of the most dangerous housing developments in the city. With slow, and most times, no repairs, the buildings housed dysfunctional elevators and poorly lit halls, if lights were on at all. Both of these would assist in the fatal accident later that night.
On November 20th, just six days before Thanksgiving, Gurley went to get his hair braided at his friend’s apartment. The plan was to have a fresh hairdo before surprising his mother by bringing his fiance and two children to visit in Florida. After getting his hair braided, he and his friend decided to go out. The two headed to the elevator at 11 pm. It wasn’t working so they opted for the stairs. On the floor above, Officer Peter Liang and his fellow rookie partner were patrolling the dark halls with no working lights. Suddenly startled, the Officer Liang pulled the trigger. The bullet ricocheted off the wall and pierced the heart and diaphragm of Akai Gurley. He would stop breathing within minutes.
Both officers failed to immediately call and report the incident. Both failed to perform CPR on the victim and instead the untrained friend of Gurley attempted to revive him. The officer with Liang, Landau, claims that Liang repeated over and over again his fears of being fired. Not only did he lose his job, but he would also be charged with second-degree manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide, second-degree assault, reckless endangerment and two counts of official misconduct.
In 2016, almost two years after the death of Akai Gurley, the final verdict came. Before and during the trial, Asian Americans gathered in protest pleading for mercy on the ex-cop. Many felt Liang was being punished in place of all of the cops that have killed unarmed Black men without jail time in recent years. Liang’s manslaughter charge was downgraded to criminally negligent homicide and he was also convicted of official misconduct. As the family of Gurley held hands in the court room, Liang was sentenced to five years probation and ordered to complete 800 community service hours.
Protesters cried “no justice” in the streets of Brooklyn and across social media. The officer would face no jail time, and another unarmed Black man is never to return. A man is dead. A son, lover, and father of two is gone. There was no arrest, intention to arrest, reason for arrest, or even exchanged words between Gurley and the officer whose bullet ricocheted off a wall and pierced his chest, killing him within minutes. There were no criminal charges involved. Your Google is irrelevant. Allow peace to rest on the name of Akai Gurley.