New York City has agreed to pay out more than $4 million dollars to the family of Akai Gurley, a man shot and killed when a poorly-trained NYPD rookie officer negligently discharged a bullet that ricocheted down a stairwell to hit Gurley, who had just emerged one floor below.
The city has agreed to pay the family of Akai Gurley more than $4 million to settle a wrongful- death lawsuit over his fatal 2012 shooting by a cop in the dark stairwell of a Brooklyn building.
The city will pay $4.1 million, while the New York City Housing Authority will pay $400,000, according to sources.
Former cop Peter Liang, who was found guilty of criminally negligent homicide, will pay $25,000.
“Obviously, we’re pleased with the results,” said Scott Rynecki, a lawyer for the Gurley family.
“At this point, we’re hoping that the new incoming police commissioner, James O’Neill, will take this opportunity to review the policy and training that takes place at the academy, as well as the procedure of allowing two rookies to go on patrol together.”
The Post article goes on to get the details of Gurley’s death horrible wrong, making it almost sound like Gurley surprised the officers and then was shot, which clearly wasn’t the case.
Peter Liang, the rookie cop who fired the shot, had his Glock G19 out of the holster and his finger on the trigger when doing a vertical patrol up the darkened stairwell of the apartment building. Liang, who is left-handed, had the department-issued G19 with the NYPD-required extra-heavy New York Trigger installed in his left hand, and a flashlight in his right hand. He attempted to open a stairwell door with his right hand, and encountered more resistance with his right hand than he expected, so he tightened his grip to exert more pressure. Unfortunately for everyone, when Liang tightened his finger on the door handle with his right hand, he also clenched his grip on his left hand, a natural sympathetic contraction/interlimb response known among physiologists as mirror movement or contralateral irradiation. This clench can exert 30 pounds of pressure, far more than is required to fire a handgun, even those equipped with “New York” triggers required by the NYPD in place of proper training.
[Read about the phenomena and how it contributes to negligent discharges. (PDF)]
This contralateral irradiation caused Liang—who, being poorly trained with firearms like most NYPD officers—to squeeze the trigger he should not have had his finger on, firing a shot that caroomed down the stairwell, ricocheted off the wall on the landing below and hit Gurley, who had just opened the door on the floor below and stepped onto the landing in time to be hit with the negligently discharged round.
Frankly, I think the Gurley family got screwed when Akai Gurley was shot, and screwed again with a paltry $4.1 Million settlement if the goal of the settlement was to force change onto the NYPD.
New York City will gladly pay out a few million dollars every few years for the negligent discharge deaths of citizens by poorly-trained officers such as Peter Laing instead of embarking on the much more expensive task of adequately training the largest police force in the United States.
It’s a simple cost/benefit equation for the City: good firearms training is expensive, in terms of hiring quality instructors, adopting current training technologies and methodologies, building adequate modern range facilities, firing millions of rounds of ammunition every year in practice, and budgeting hours for officers to train and other officers to cover their shifts.
Life is cheap.
Training is expensive.
Until cities are sued to the point of pain—tens of millions to hundreds of millions per negligent discharge death—many cities are going to choose to go with minimal firearms training and minimal competence, playing the odds that officers probably won’t have a negligent discharge that kills a citizen, and if they do, the city will be able to pay a pittance for the life taken.
Akai Gurley’s three-year-old daughter, Akaila, will not remember her father, and never have a life with him thanks to the fatal mistakes made by an incompetently trained NYPD officer.
$4 million dollars?
That’s chump change.