The DNAinfo archives brought to you by WNYC.
Read the press release here.

Red Hook Residents Rally to Support Akai Gurley's Family

By Nikhita Venugopal | November 25, 2014 2:09pm
 Akai Gurley, 28, was unarmed when police fatally shot him Nov. 20 night, the NYPD said.
Akai Gurley, 28, was unarmed when police fatally shot him Nov. 20 night, the NYPD said.
View Full Caption
DNAinfo/Trevor Kapp and Explore Talent

RED HOOK — A group of Red Hook residents is rallying to support the family of an unarmed man who was shot and killed by a police officer last week.

Akai Gurley, 28, was gunned down by rookie Police Officer Peter Liang in a darkened stairwell of the Pink Houses in East New York. The city’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner ruled Gurley’s death a homicide.

NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton called Gurley “a total innocent” and said Liang’s weapon “accidentally discharged.”

About a dozen community members, many who belong to a neighborhood group called Red Hook Local Leaders, gathered Monday night to discuss ways to help Gurley’s 2-year-old daughter and her mother, Kimberly Michelle Ballinger, both of whom reportedly live in the Red Hook Houses. 

“It’s hard to lose someone during the holidays,” said Robert Berrios, a representative of Red Hook’s Visitation Church, where the meeting took place.

As Thanksgiving approaches, Frances Brown, the president of the Red Hook East tenants’ association, wanted to help the family commemorate the holiday, she said.

She took grocery bags with turkey, ingredients for stuffing and mac and cheese, collard greens and a sweet potato pie, she said. 

Brown described Ballinger as “a quiet young lady” who seemed in good spirits on Monday, Brown added. 

“All we can do is pray for her and her children,” she said.

The Local Leaders decided they will start their efforts to help Ballinger with gift cards from Fairway Market and Ikea with a note explaining that they are available if she needs assistance from the community. The value of the gift cards is to be determined.

People at the meeting, which included representatives for state Assemblyman Felix Ortiz, Councilman Carlos Menchaca and nonprofit the Red Hook Initiative, also discussed hosting a candlelight vigil for Gurley and a fundraiser for his family.

Red Hook Local Leaders, which began as a three-month training program at the Red Hook Initiative to learn about strengthening community resiliency, also touched upon the need to improve relations between the NYPD’s housing patrol and residents of the public houses.

The neighborhood wanted to make sure it did not “have a repeat of Ferguson,” said Berrios, referring to violent protests that took place in the Missouri city after unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot and killed by a police officer.

A representative from the NYPD said the local 76th Precinct was working to schedule a community council meeting with officers from Police Service Area 1, which monitors the Red Hook housing developments.

Berrios commented that Red Hook looked “like a prison camp” because of several flood lamps that lit up the area at night for crime prevention.  

“[The Police] really need to realize that these people are human beings,” he said.