New York City to Fork Over $4.1M to Family of Akai Gurley

Hertencia Petersen, right, aunt of Akai Gurley, and Melissa Butler, third left, his girlfriend, attend a protest in Brooklyn on, March 24. AP Photo/Richard Drew

Hertencia Petersen, right, aunt of Akai Gurley, and Melissa Butler, third left, his girlfriend, attend a protest in Brooklyn on, March 24. AP Photo/Richard Drew

The City of New York has agreed to cough up over $4 million to settle a wrongful death suit filed by the family of 28-year-old Akai Gurley.

NYPD officer Peter Liang shot and killed Gurley at the Pink Houses in East New York in 2014.

According to the New York Daily News, both the city and New York City Housing Authority are shelling out cash for the multi-million-dollar settlement. Former Officer Liang will also pay a $25,000 fine for his lethal misconduct. That money will go to Kimberly Ballinger, the mother of Gurley’s daughter Akaila, and will be secured in a trust fund. The city is liable for $4.1 million to the New York man’s family, while the housing authority will pay another $400,000.

“I’m glad it’s all done,” Ballinger, 26, told the New York Daily News as she waited for Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Dawn Jimenez-Salta to sign off on the settlement Monday. “I’m pleased with the outcome.”

Ballinger’s wrongful death suit accused ex-officers Liang and his partner, Shaun Landau, of negligent and reckless misconduct in the November 2014 shooting. Gurley’s girlfriend, Melissa Butler, also filed a suit against the city alleging that the officers’ actions caused her injuries and damages, Atlanta Black Star reports.

Liang, a rookie cop, was patrolling the Pink Houses on the night of Nov. 20 when his gun accidentally went off in a dark stairwell of the housing project. The bullet ricocheted off a wall, striking Gurley in the chest as he and his girlfriend walked down the pitch-black stairwell. According to ABS, Liang claimed he was afraid during the patrol and had his gun out and finger on the trigger — a violation of departmental policy.

The NYPD later fired the disgraced officer and convicted him on reckless misconduct and manslaughter charges. However, Liang still escaped jail time after a judge lessened his charge from manslaughter to criminally negligent homicide. The ex-cop will ultimately serve five years probation and perform 800 hours of community service for the shooting death of Gurley.

Landau was also kicked off the force for his role in the deadly shooting.

According to the New York Post, Gurley family attorney Scott Rynecki expressed satisfaction with the outcome of the settlement.

“At this point, we’re hoping that the new incoming police commissioner, James O’Neill, will take this opportunity to review the policy and training that takes place at the academy, as well as the procedure of allowing two rookies to go on patrol together,” Rynecki said.

However, the settlement money isn’t enough for some, especially Gurley’s aunt ,who expressed outrage over the fact that Liang was let go with a slap on the wrist.

“So you’re telling me it’s OK for a black man in America, good ol’ America, to get murdered, and these officers who took an oath to serve and protect are not being held accountable?,” Hertencia Petersen said at the former cop’s sentencing.

Those demanding justice for Gurley and his family expressed similar sentiments on social media, noting that $4.1 million wasn’t enough to bring the New York man back. Others said they wouldn’t be satisfied until Liang was locked up behind bars.

According to the New York Daily News, Liang was the second officer convicted of an on-duty homicide in over a decade. A jury convicted the previous officer, Bryan Conroy, in the criminally negligent homicide of Ousmane Zongo in 2003. The city later awarded Zongo’s family $3 million in their wrongful death suit, the publication reports.

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