City Reaches $4M Deal on Akai Gurley Killing

     BROOKLYN, N.Y. (CN) — New York City will pay $4 million to settle claims by the family of Akai Gurley, an unarmed man shot to death by a rookie cop in the stairwell of his apartment building.
     The settlement announced Monday comes four months after Gurley’s killer, former New York City police officer Peter Liang, received a sentence of probation and community service.
     A jury found Liang guilty of manslaughter for the reckless shooting of Gurley on Nov. 20, 2014, but Judge Danny Chun reduced the conviction counts to criminally negligent homicide and misconduct.
     The Daily News reported that the $4 million settlement includes a $25,000 payment by Liang to Gurley’s former girlfriend, Kimberly Ballinger, with whom the 28-year-old had a child.
     Scott Rubenstein, an attorney with Rubenstein Rynecki who filed Ballinger’s suit last year, did not return a request for comment Tuesday morning.
     The Daily News said that the city’s portion of the settlement comes to $4.1 million, and that the New York City Housing Authority must also fork over $400,000.
     Gurley was killed in the unlit stairwell of the Louis Pink Houses in East New York while Liang and his partner were working a floor-by-floor sweep of the housing project, what the New York City Police Department calls a vertical patrol.
     Liang fired his gun because he had been startled by a sound, and the bullet ricocheted off a wall and hit Gurley in the chest, several floors below, killing him.
     Complicating the accidental nature of the shooting, however, was evidence that Liang callously worried his career when Gurley lay dying.
     “I’m going to be fired,” Liang had whined when his partner told him to call in the shooting.
     Liang insisted that he did not realize initially that he had hit anybody, but he acknowledged that he did not radio in the incident, check Gurley’s pulse or perform CPR once he did learn.
     Help for Gurley came only after Gurley’s friend, Melissa Butler, asked a neighbor to call 911, in a harrowing recording played for the jury early in the trial.
     Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Dawn Jimenez-Salta signed off on the settlement Monday afternoon.
     Gurley and Butler had been in the seventh-floor stairwell on the night of his death because the elevator was broken.
     Both Liang and his partner, Shawn Landau, were probationary officers and were fired after the trial.
     Gurley’s mother has another pending lawsuit against the city out of Brooklyn for emotional distress, and the city has filed papers to have the case dropped. Butler, the woman whom Gurley had been dating at the time of his death, sued Liang as well.
     Earlier this month, New York City Police Commissioner Bill Bratton tendered his resignation amid growing protests over “racist police brutality.”
     Bratton had been police commissioner under Republican Mayor Rudy Giuliani and came to office again in 2014 upon the election of Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio.
     His “broken windows” crime-fighting strategy has been widely condemned as protests over senseless police killings draw more attention.
     Championed by sociologists George Kelling and James Q. Wilson, the “broken windows” theory holds that clamping down on petty misdemeanors like graffiti, marijuana and public urination prevents more serious crimes.
     Though New York City experienced a dramatic drop in crime during the early years of this strategy under Giuliani, crime rates plummeted across the United States during the same years, even in cities that never adopted Bratton’s methods.
     Think Progress reported last month that police killed at least 532 people, “many of whom were unarmed, mentally ill, and people of color,” just in the first half of this year.
     The NYPD has not respond to a request for comment Tuesday morning.

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