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Officer Did Nothing for 4 Minutes After Fatally Shooting Akai Gurley: DA

By DNAinfo Staff | February 11, 2015 12:23pm | Updated on February 11, 2015 6:38pm

 Protesters gather in front of Kings County Supreme Court House waiting for Officer Peter Liang's indictment. 
Protest Peter Liang Indictment
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DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN — The officer who fatally shot Akai Gurley in the in the stairwell of an East New York housing project last year did nothing for four minutes while Gurley bled to death, prosecutors said Wednesday.

The stunning news was revealed as Officer Peter Liang pleaded not guilty to manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide, assault, reckless endangerment and official misconduct during the hearing on the indictment at Brooklyn Supreme Court.

Prosecutors also revealed that the shot that hit Gurley ricocheted off the concrete wall and hit the victim in the chest.

"We don’t believe that Officer Liang intended to kill Mr. Gurley," Brooklyn DA Kenneth Thompson said after the hearing. "But he had his finger on the trigger and he fired the gun.”

The courtroom, which was packed with dozens of Gurley's supporters, erupted in jeers as the hearing ended and Liang was released without bail.

"He murdered my nephew and gets out on bail," said his aunt Hertencia Petersen, 49, said. "We would have been in shackles in here."

Others shouted: “The whole system is guilty as hell."

As the hearing ended, court employees corralled the protesters, blocking them inside the courtroom until court officials and Liang and his attorney had cleared out. 

Liang — a rookie officer who allegedly shot and killed Gurley, 28, in a dark stairwell of the Pink Houses on Nov. 20 — surrendered at the 84th Precinct in downtown Brooklyn around 10 a.m.

Ahead of the hearing, about two dozen protesters gathered at the courthouse holding signs saying "Black Lives Matter" and "Jail Killer Cops."

"It's a bittersweet victory. But it's a short step for what we're hoping for," Petersen said. "It's not over until Peter Liang is going to jail...It's a long road ahead of us."

On the evening of his death, Gurley was visiting his girlfriend Melissa Butler, 27, at the housing at 2724 Linden Blvd. The two waited for an elevator and when it didn't come they decided to take the stairs, Butler told DNAinfo in November.

Liang, who faces up to 15 years in prison on the top charge, was conducting a vertical patrol with his gun drawn when he fired a single shot from a landing above the seventh floor, striking Gurley in the chest, the NYPD said.

Prosecutors said Liang was holding a flashlight in one hand and a gun in the other and used his shoulder to push open the door into the stairwell.

As the door opened, he accidentally pulled the trigger of the gun while it was aimed down the stairwell, prosecutors said.

The round ricocheted off a concrete wall and landed in Gurley's chest.

Prosecutors said Liang fired his weapon, but didn't follow the sound of people scrambling down the stairs to check to see what had happened.

Rather, he retreated back into the 8th floor hallway where he stood for four minutes, refusing to call in the incident while arguing with his partner.

"He did not render aid, he did not perform CPR and he still did not use his police radio to report what was going on," said Marc Fliedner, the prosecutor at the hearing.

Instead Liang worried, "I'm going to be fired for this," according to prosecutors.

Prosecutors said they found no proof that Liang had texted his union representative after firing the shot, only evidence that the two officers had argued for at least four minutes.

When Liang finally walked down to the lower level, Gurley's girlfriend was trying to revive him and a neighbor was talking to paramedics on the phone; Liang still did nothing. 

It took at least 10 minutes for an ambulance to arrive.

“The evidence will show that they did not render medical assistance to Mr. Gurley as they were trained to do in the police academy," Thompson said. "They were trained to give CPR.”

But Thompson applauded other officers who responded to the shooting and immediately rendered aid to Gurley.

After the hearing, the tense court room dispersed and family members and protesters gathered in front of the building.

"I was shocked about the details," Kimberly Ballinger, Gurley's domestic partner said, referring to the disputed between Liang and his partner.

“It’s hard, it’s like really hard to express it. It’s really hard when someone who used to be in your life isn’t there,“ she said.

“Not only is it hard for me and my kids, it’s hard for his mother and his aunt.”

The District Attorney did not say whether or not charges would be brought against Liang's partner.

Liang is the second NYPD officer to be indicted in the last two weeks.

Officer Joel Edouard, 37, turned himself over to the police on Feb. 3 after he was caught on video stomping a marijuana suspect’s head. He was indicted on charges of assault and official misconduct.

Though Edouard and Liang were indicted, Officer Daniel Pantaleo was not for the chokehold death of Eric Garner.

"In some instances it results in an indictment. It did not in the instance of Mr. Garner in Staten Island. It did not in the instance of the shooting in Ferguson," Commissioner Bill Bratton said Wednesday. "Sometimes there are indictments. Sometimes there are not. I'm not going to question that."