As 28-year-old Akai Gurley bled to death in a darkened Brooklyn project stairwell, rookie cop Peter Liang and officer Shaun Landau argued for four minutes before getting help for the East New York native, according to newly released court documents.
The innocent man with a bullet wound in his chest and who later died at Brookdale University Hospital was a pawn in the childish bickering of two NYPD officers.
“What the f— happened?” Landau asked his partner after the shot ricocheted off the wall and struck the victim’s chest.
“It went off by accident,” replied Liang as he repeatedly voiced concerns over losing his job, according to released court documents that were filed by the Brooklyn district attorney’s office.
Equipped with police radios and flashlights in the pitch-black area, the officers waited several minutes before making a call to an ambulance that might have saved Gurley’s life.
“You call,” Liang said.
“No, you call,” Landau replied, according to court documents. The feud, both immature and juvenile, did not stop until Liang asked for their supervisor’s number. The call, which originally was to be made on partner Landau’s phone, was finally dialed on Liang’s cellphone.
Meanwhile, Melissa Butler, Gurley’s girlfriend, began knocking on neighbors’ doors looking for help to find anyone who could aid her boyfriend. The distraught Butler managed to gather towels and tried to stop the bleeding.
“Ms. Butler was crying and her hands were bloody,” according to court documents. She then screamed, “He’s not breathing.”
After a conversation with an EMS operator, Butler attempted to give the fatally shot man CPR. The officers, who were CPR certified and trained, walked around Gurley and went to the fourth floor, according to court papers.
Former City Councilman and current Assemblyman Charles Barron said that the shot fired at Gurley was “no accident,” as Liang is required to have the gun holstered.
“They should put his [Liang] behind under the jail for that,” Barron said. “He did not have enough sensitivity to help save a life. They were arguing for four minutes while this man was lying there dying.”
Although Gurley was unarmed during the attack, the defense lawyer regarded the unholstered gun as a form of protection in a “dangerous situation.”
Barron regards the officer’s comments in the four-minute quarrel as a “bunch of nonsense” and “lies.”
“There were no crimes being committed,” Barron said. “His gun should have been holstered, his hand should have been off the trigger … he recklessly caused the death of an innocent young man.”
During vertical patrols, which the NYPD conducts in New York City Housing Authority buildings, officers unholster firearms at their own discretion.
Before being fatally shot at 11:15 p.m., the father of three was heading to Jacksonville, Fla., to visit his mother, according to a video released by The New York Times. Barron said the Brooklyn community is “outraged” by police brutality across the city.
“They feel like Black lives just don’t matter,” Barron said. “We need to make sure police are punished when they violate our human rights. He should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
Liang pleaded not guilty earlier this year to second-degree manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide, assault and official misconduct. He will be arraigned in court Sept. 29.