In the six and a half minutes after Peter Liang discharged a single bullet that struck Gurley, 28, he and his partner couldn’t be reached, sources told the Daily News. And instead of calling for help for the dying man, Liang was texting his union representative. What’s more, the sources said, the pair of officers weren’t supposed to be patrolling the stairways of the Pink Houses that night.
While Akai Gurley was dying in a darkened stairwell at a Brooklyn housing development, the cop who fired the fatal bullet was texting his union representative, sources told the Daily News.
Right after rookie cop Peter Liang discharged a single bullet that struck Gurley, 28, he and his partner Shaun Landau were incommunicado for more than six and a half minutes, sources said Thursday.
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In the critical moments after the Nov. 20 shooting, the cops’ commanding officer and an emergency operator — responding to a 911 call from a neighbor and knowing the duo was in the area — tried to reach them in vain, sources said.
“That’s showing negligence,” said a law enforcement source of the pair’s decision to text their union rep before making a radio call for help.
“The guy is dying and you still haven’t called it in?”
To make things even worse, the officers were uncertain of the exact address of the building in the Pink Houses they were in, according to their text messages, the sources said.
The explosive details of the immediate aftermath following the shooting of Gurley are at the center of an investigation by Brooklyn District Attorney Kenneth Thompson — who is poised to present evidence to a grand jury as early as the end of this month.
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The police shooting case is certain to command extra scrutiny after a Staten Island grand jury Wednesday declined to indict NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleofor the chokehold death of Eric Garner.
Adding to the tragedy surrounding Gurley’s death, the officers involved were not supposed to be doing a patrol in the stairways, the sources said.
Deputy Inspector Miguel Iglesias, then the head officer of the local housing command, ordered them not to carry out such patrols, known as verticals.
He opted instead for exterior policing in response to a spate of violence at the East New York housing project.
“They’ve done verticals before,” a police source said of the two officers.
“But Iglesias’ philosophy was, ‘I want a presence on the street, in the courtyards — and if they go into the buildings they were just supposed to check out the lobby.”
Another source said the commander was furious after the shooting, raging, “I told them not to do verticals.”
Police Commissioner Bill Bratton characterized the incident as an “unfortunate tragedy” and an accident. Officials said Liang was holding a flashlight in his right hand and a Glock 9-mm. in the other when he opened the door to the eighth-floor landing.
One bullet flew out and apparently ricocheted into the chest of Gurley, who was on the seventh-floor landing and taking the stairs with his girlfriend Melissa Butler, 27.
The victim stumbled down to the fifth floor and Butler knocked on a woman’s door on the fourth floor, pleading for help. That woman called 911, a source said.
When Liang and Landau finally resurfaced on the radio, they reported an accidental discharge, added the source. Authorities have said they didn’t immediately know anyone was struck with the bullet.
The stairwell was pitch-black because the lights were out. The superintendent had asked NYCHA to fix the lights months before the fatal encounter. The problem was finally resolved hours after Gurley died.
While the shooting may have been a mishap, the cops’ subsequent conduct can amount to criminal liability, court insiders said.
“I would be surprised if it is not at least presented to a grand jury,” said Kenneth Montgomery, a lawyer for Gurley’s parents. “It’s a debacle and it speaks of criminal negligence.”
DA Thompson had called the shooting “deeply troubling” and promised “an immediate, fair and thorough investigation.”
A spokeswoman for his office had no comment Thursday. The NYPD also declined comment.
Gurley’s mother, Sylvia Parker, and stepfather, Kenneth Palmer, are scheduled to make their first public statements Friday morning, ahead of their son’s wake.
Gurley will be laid to rest Saturday.
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