NYPD

NYPD Cop Shoots Unarmed Man, Texts Union Rep Instead of Calling for Help

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Akai Gurley's daughter.
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Rookie NYPD cop Peter Liang texted his union representative and was "incommunicado for more than six and a half minutes" as Akai Gurley, the unarmed man he shot in the stairwell of a Brooklyn housing project, lay dying.

Liang had been holding his gun in one hand and a flashlight in the other as he entered an unlit stairwell when he was startled by the noise of Gurley and his girlfriend, Melissa Butler, entering the stairwell one floor below. Liang claims his gun accidentally discharged, sending a ricocheting bullet into Gurley's chest.

The New York Daily News reports that in the crucial minutes following the shooting, Liang and his partner did not try to get medical attention for the grievously wounded man and could not be reached by either their commanding officer or the 911 dispatcher who fielded a call from a neighbor reporting gunshots. 

It gets worse. Sources told the Daily News that the text messages revealed the officers didn't know the exact address of the building they were in, and that "Deputy Inspector Miguel Iglesias, then the head officer of the local housing command, ordered them not to carry out such patrols, known as verticals." Iglesias added, "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."

After the shooting, Liang was described as "panicked" and "a crying mess," which is an understandable human reaction when you have just shot someone whose one false move was taking the stairs after growing impatient with waiting for a slow moving elevator. However, if Liang indeed texted his union representative rather than calling for help, that demonstrates a calculated awareness that he was in deep trouble and his first priority was saving himself.

The Daily News cites court insiders as saying "while the shooting may have been a mishap, the cops' subsequent conduct can amount to criminal liability." A lawyer for the Gurley family hopes the case is at least presented to a grand jury and as Reason's Brian Doherty noted, political pressure is mounting for Liang to be prosecuted. Brooklyn District Attorney Kenneth Thompson has promised "an immediate, fair and thorough investigation."

In the meantime, Liang remains on "modified duty," protected from even an internal affairs investigation unless the D.A. presses charges against him. In a post earlier today, Reason's Ed Krayewski wrote about how police unions, like all public sector unions, circle the wagons in a crisis even if it means defending bad employees:

They can be fired, but not always. Many police departments, including New York's, have generous job protections for police officers. These privileges, masquerading as "due process," protect bad cops. Defenders of public unions say it isn't fair to fire a public employee merely for the appearance of impropriety, bias, or even corruption and criminality.

Serious police reform will require the cooperation of police unions, but Republicans generally refuse to take them on, lest they appear out of step with their "law and order" base, and many Democrats would rather avoid being seen as opponents of any public sector union. 

In a scathing piece on the police lobby at Vice, occasional Reason contributor Michael Tracey wrote:

What if their overriding mantras were something along the lines of "serve the community" instead of "get home from your shift alive"?

The only way to change this is through difficult, tedious governmental reform—not fancy speeches or racial sensitivity seminars—and the police lobby will ferociously oppose such efforts at every step.

NEXT: Gang Rape Story's Credibility Blasted, Garner Grand Jury Denied Options, Supreme Court to Consider First Amendment and License Plates: P.M. Links

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  1. The Daily News cites court insiders as saying “while the shooting may have been a mishap,

    Its not a “mishap”. Its criminal negligence, at an absolute minimum. He fired his gun negligently, and someone died. There’s no police privilege available to him: he wasn’t chasing a suspected criminal, he wasn’t making an arrest.

    He just shot a guy, maybe even accidentally.

    I’ll be interested to see if there really was a ricochet. There will be physical evidence of it, if it really happened, and no way it happens without leaving a mark. I’m guessing that he fired at a silhouette as the light came in from the hallway, myself, as I think its much more likely than a random ricochet.

    1. This will be an interesting test of just how deferential the courts and prosecutors (and grand juries) are to cops. At best he was a negligent idiot walking around with his finger on the trigger and no good reason and should be charged with negligent homicide, or whatever the charge would be for any normal person who killed someone by being stupid with a gun.

      1. Finger on the trigger *and* gun drawn with no threat.

        1. I was reading up on this story on another site, and in comments, some badge bunny was claiming that the NYPD officers are trained to keep their finger on the trigger while their weapons are drawn. I wonder if this is true?

          1. Well, that’s as reliable as “Jackie,” so I believe it.

          2. NYPD officers are trained to keep their finger on the trigger while their weapons are drawn.

            I can’t think of a better way to give your self a case of Glock leg. Even with those abortions called the NY trigger that they used to carry.

            This is manslaughter if just about anyone else not a cop did this.

          3. Maybe in the 70s. Now, even on TV (hardly a paragon of showing responsible gun use), carrying an unholstered gun is depicted with finger outside guard, as it should be.

    2. Agreed. A ricochet hitting center mass seems highly unlikely. It sounds more like a well placed shot to me. But, I guess it’s possible. Statistically unlikely, but possible.

    3. He didn’t “fire his gun”. The gun “discharged”.

    4. Modern firearms don’t accidently discharge. He pulled the trigger.

    5. He had the pistol drawn, finger on the trigger, and looked to where Gurley entered the landing below him. Hands follow eyes, so too did the pistol, and startle reflex ensured that idiot pulled the trigger while pointing the gun at Gurley. Reckless disregard for prudent, reasonable police firearms use. And no effort at all to mitigate damage.

      Again, you or I do this, we get popped for manslaughter. Assuming the DA’s office doesn’t read enough intent into our recklessness to make it depraved indifference to human life. Which is Murder 2.

  2. Serious police reform will require the cooperation elimination of police unions,

    Really, you think police unions are ever going to be anything other than a roadblock to holding cops accountable?

  3. I must have misread an earlier account. I thought the cop at first didn’t realize the ricochet hit anything and was just worried about the probable fallout from the accidental discharge of his weapon.

    1. I can’t believe he didn’t know immediately he had shot someone. Even if the dead guy went down immediately and silently, he was with his girlfriend, and I can’t believe she said and did nothing at all.

      1. You’re probably right. The account I believe said they realized it when they found her sobbing over the boyfriend. It might have just been the impression that stuck in my mind rather than the actual narrative.

      2. If the cops just shot your boyfriend for no reason, would you really want to try and attract their attention to the fact you’re also there and have not been shot yet?

        1. You’d have to be one stone cold motherfucker to be standing with someone who is shot completely at random, and not make a sound.

          Nah. He knew, even if it was an accidental ricochet, he knew. And neither he nor his scumbag partner did anything for several minutes by cry and pee their pants and call the union.

    2. Fellow vets and family members of vets, how deep is the shit in which one finds oneself, in the event of discharging one’s firearm outside the course of prescribed uses?

      Hint: Very.

  4. Okay, Reason, please tell me you’re just making up shit, now. Right? Right?

  5. Rookie NYPD cop Peter Liang texted his union representative and was “incommunicado for more than six and a half minutes” as Akai Gurley, the unarmed man he shot in the stairwell of a Brooklyn housing project, lay dying.

    Can we really, really blame him for this? Isn’t it the Libertarian position to “not talk to the cops”?

    1. Too soon. You needed to wait at least 10 more minutes to make a bad joke.

      1. It’s not a joke. It can certainly be taken as gallows humor. But I’m deadly serious. It’s the same reason cops almost universally refuse breathalyzers.

        1. Well, I can lame him for it. Libertarian or not, you kind of need to call the cops if you accidentally shoot someone, or it’s going to be a lot worse. And if you don’t call an ambulance, you are a bad person.

          According to several defense attorneys I have talked to, refusing a breathalyzer is what any smart person should do.

          1. Well, I can lame him for it.

            I’m assuming this is a typo, rather than an offer. Too bad.

        2. I can blame him for it.

          1. Should have, at a minimum, called an ambulance.

          2. As a *cop*, I want him to report in to his superiors everytime he discharges his weapon. I don’t expect him to give incriminating details, but should at least give a ‘I just ND’d’ report.

          1. I was watching a “Perfect Storm” rerun a while back about the local Police Prefect in Toyko at the time of the 1923 Earthquake and Firestorm

            He had, in all good faith, shepherded people into an open area where he thought they would be safe. They weren’t. Thousands were trapped and killed by the firestorm.

            The day after, he committed seppuku.

            1. I’m no fan of suicide, but I’m certainly glad he didn’t get a free paid vacation for 3 months and then go back to his job, or at worst get re-hired by a PD in a nearby city.

  6. Sounds like the City should sue the gun manufacturer since the weapon went off of its own accord. Oh wait, nope, that was the passive voice used to describe the incident. In reality, he shut off the safety, pulled the trigger and shot someone in cold blood.

    1. Now now, you’re assuming that he knew what the safety was and how to engage and disengage it. He was probably incompetent enough that after an instructor disengaged the safety for him that first day on the range, he never engaged it again.

      -jcr

  7. A friend of mine has a brother who’s a Sheriff’s deputy in the Spokane County department.

    He just texted me:

    “True Story: There’s a union rep in the police academy in here in WA. They train the cadets that the union rep is the first call after a shooting.”

    1. Lovely.

      Fuck it. I need a beer.

    2. So THAT’S what they mean by “officer training”

      1. Procedures were followed.

  8. Wow.

    1. If you don’t keep your finger in the trigger guard, things like this aren’t going to happen. It must be that ‘training’ in firearms safety that makes cops so much more likely to ‘negligently discharge’.

    2. FFS – if you’re going into a situation where you feel the need to have your weapon drawn, shouldn’t it be SOP to ensure both that you know where you are *and* that your TOC does? You knwo, in case some shit goes down and you need help? LE wants to *be* military, then they need to get their shit together *like* military. Get your SOPs, know your SOPs, train your SOPs – don’t ‘wing’ shit.

    1. And you probably shouldn’t be alone either.

  9. Yeah, that picture is a kind of tough to see.

  10. So how much will NYC be paying out of this and the choking death of Mr. Garner? Anyone?.And how about that union rep on TV,looks like the typical ‘can’t use proper English,respect my badge peon ‘NY cop on the take.

  11. After the shooting, Liang was described as “panicked” and “a crying mess,”

    It may be my imagination, but the cops of yesteryear seem to have been made of sterner stuff than the current crop of fearful, body-armor-wearing, taser-packing, weapons-drawn-at-every-instance, puppyciding, “OMG-A-FURTIVE-GESTURE!”ing, Brave Public Heroes. Make no mistake, they were likely as crooked as their policing posterity, but a cop caught by surprise was less likely to “accidentally discharge” an entire clip into you, “resisting arrest” was more likely to get you a severe ass-kicking and not perforated with rounds, choked to death, or electrocuted.

    1. Most people were,look at what is called bulling today,it’s hurt feelings. Hate speech was called high school when I was a teen

    2. Most people were,look at what is called bulling today,it’s hurt feelings. Hate speech was called high school when I was a teen

    3. “… the cops of yesteryear seem to have been made of sterner stuff than the current crop of fearful, body-armor-wearing, taser-packing, weapons-drawn-at-every-instance, puppyciding, “OMG-A-FURTIVE-GESTURE!”ing, Brave Public Heroes.

      Barney Fife was made of sterner stuff.

    4. “panicked” and “a crying mess,”

      OMG! I’m going to have an indefinite vaca!

    5. Police probably used to be able to hire better people: 50 years ago, police work was better than most other jobs available to blue collar workers; these days, the economy offers most people jobs that are safer and more interesting.

  12. OK ,yes ,the drinking lamp is lit

    1. You don’t say 🙂

      Cheers!

    2. I was wondering what that…THAT, was.

  13. And this is why only properly trained and government vetted law enforcement individuals should be allowed to carry firearms. Oh, wait.

    1. My duck hunting partner was a cop,pretty good guy really,calm with people.Any way ,a couple of his work buddies duck hunted with us a few times,they couldn’t hit a duck or goose if it was dead on the ground.Brian got better once I taught him how to shoot over decoys.I’ve used a Churchill o\u for years.They love their autos and shoot to fast. Well,back to my stout

  14. Serpico on the Eric Garner killing:

    http://www.nydailynews.com/new…..-1.2034651

    1. I read his book when I was 13 or so,I’m happy he is still alive.

  15. To be expected the psycho’s have to get their stories straight.

  16. Rookie NYPD cop Peter Liang texted his union representative and was “incommunicado for more than six and a half minutes”

    Liang: Dude, I just earned my stripes!

    Union thug: Don’t forget to tell everyone you were in mortal danger, the guy had what looked like a gun and was coming at you.

    Liang: But it was pretty dark and I just heard something.

    Union thug: OK. Then just say your finger slipped. No, better, say the gun went off on its own and you had no idea where it went.

    Liang: Right. That’s better.

    Union thug: So, do you need a ticket to Hawaii or Cancun ? Is the wife going or do you need some company?

    Liang: Oh, man! [sobbing with joy]

  17. Serious police reform will require the cooperation of police unions, but Republicans generally refuse to take them on, lest they appear out of step with their “law and order” base, and many Democrats would rather avoid being seen as opponents of any public sector union.

    Key sentence in entire article. Same reason why the prison guard unions are so powerful. Both sets of unions have prevented any meaningful reforms of the criminal justice within the legislative branch for decades.

  18. I think the most disgusting thing about all these stories is how clearly untrained our professional heroes in blue actually are.

    In the first week of basic/boot, muzzle awareness is drilled into your head along with the common sense idea of not putting your finger on or near the trigger unless you are intending to fire. Because, you know, in the military if you discharge your weapon, that shits UCMJ. You hit someone, you are going to Leavenworth.

    1. They are well trained in wealthy and low crime neighborhoods. But what kind of people do you think poor and crime ridden communities can afford to hire and train as police officers?

    2. I’ll never forget the day an E-1 trainee moved his muzzle across our formation while turning around. Now, everyone knew there was not a round within 10 miles of that rifle, but that did not stop 5 DSs descending like the wrath of Zeus on this shmuck that “killed” half a platoon.

    3. You know, it’s amazing because a good friend of mine was a USMC police officer who had served in the Helmand province of Afghanistan, and he’s often very critical of those he calls “blueberries” too. He’s also stated that a lot of the MP training he received could of prevented most of these issues. He also feels that this would be an unlikely solution because it would look like we are militarizing our police even more to Democrats, despite the fact we would only be doing it to educate.

  19. Going after police is pointless and ineffective. The problem is that we have criminalized too much and are enforcing laws against nonviolent conduct to aggressively. Addressing those issues does not involve police or police unions, it is something Congress and state legislatures can do on their own.

    1. Yeah, but police and police unions lobby to keep those laws in place. Any time there is a proposal to decriminalize drugs or gambling, police show up to oppose it. As long as the police are a powerful lobby, it is hard to get rid of the laws.

  20. if the Collective Bargaining Agreement prevents an investigation, arrest and charge everyone who signed it and abides by it for obstructing justice. contract doesn’t trump law for anyone else.

  21. My best friend’s mother-in-law makes $85 /hour on the internet . She has been out of work for 5 months but last month her pay was $16453 just working on the internet for a few hours.
    Visit this website ????? http://www.jobsfish.com

  22. “Many police departments, including New York’s, have generous job protections for police officers. These privileges, masquerading as “due process,” protect bad cops.”

    And that is why all cops are bad, and all of them are criminals, because if you support that kind of coverup, then you are an accomplice to all the crimes committed by the other cops, and there are plenty of them.

  23. Look, I don’t think that any of us will debate that calling for help should of been the top priority of the officer, but I think this highlights the sad state of affairs being brought about by the media. Their blame game has put police in such a state that an officer is so afraid of making a mistake, that it actually impairs his ability to do his job.

    On the other side of the coin, had he called for help, would officer Liang of been another cop blamed for another instance of bad policing?

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