NYPD patrol car
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The New York City Police Department is calling the shooting of an unarmed 28-year-old man by a rookie officer an “accident,” emphasizing that the victim was “a total innocent,” the New York Times reports.

According to the report, Akai Gurley was shot in a stairwell in the borough of Brooklyn late Thursday night, reportedly without provocation, according to Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Advertisement

“We don’t know enough yet, but it does appear to be an accident,” the mayor said Friday at a press conference. “This is a tragedy.”

NYPD Commissioner William Bratton echoed the mayor’s sentiments, saying that it was “an unfortunate accident” and that Gurley was “a total innocent” who was doing nothing other than walking down the stairs.

The officer responsible for the shooting, Peter Liang, has been stripped of his badge and gun and placed on modified duty. According to the Times, Liang had been working for a little more than a year.

Advertisement

While Liang and his partner were patrolling in the East New York neighborhood, they met Gurley in the stairwell shortly before midnight. The Times reports that Liang had drawn his flashlight and his gun as he entered a dark area on the eighth floor. Around the same time, Gurley and his girlfriend had entered the stairwell on the seventh floor.

“One officer discharged one round from his service weapon, striking the male in the chest,” the police statement read.

The girlfriend said she heard the shot before seeing her boyfriend, who was shot in the chest, stumble down the stairs.

“The cop didn’t present himself; he just shot him in the chest,” Janice Butler, the sister of Gurley’s girlfriend, told the Times. “They didn’t see their face or nothing.”

Gurley was taken to a hospital but was pronounced dead.

Read more at the New York Times.