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Grand jury to hear NY stairwell killing case

December 5, 2014

NEW YORK (AP) — A grand jury will examine the shooting death of an unarmed man by a rookie police officer in a darkened public housing stairwell, the Brooklyn district attorney said Friday, hours before a memorial for the slain man.

The developments in the case surrounding Akai Gurley’s death came two days after a grand jury on Staten Island decided criminal charges weren’t warranted against a different police officer in the chokehold death of another unarmed man, Eric Garner. The Garner case — coming on the heels of a Missouri grand jury’s decision not to indict a police officer in the fatal shooting of an unarmed 18-year-old in Ferguson — has sparked debate around the country about the grand jury process.

Brooklyn DA Kenneth Thompson said he would convene a grand jury “because it is important to get to the bottom of what happened.”

Thompson said in a statement that information was still being gathered, and there was no timetable for when the grand jury would begin its work.

Gurley, 28, and his girlfriend opened a door to a pitch-dark stairway Nov. 20 as a rookie officer, patrolling by flashlight with his gun drawn, was descending the stairs one floor up, police said. City police often make roof-down patrols of public housing stairwells, as some are havens for crime.

Police Commissioner William Bratton said the shooting was an apparent accident that claimed a “totally innocent” life. The medical examiner has ruled the death a homicide.

Gurley’s funeral is scheduled for Saturday.

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