In an apparent effort to ease tensions as protests rage across the nation over police violence against blacks, New York City Police Commissioner Bill Bratton on Friday called the death of a “totally innocent,” unarmed black man an “unfortunate tragedy,” The Guardian reports.
“What happened last night was a very unfortunate tragedy,” Bratton said of the victim, Akai Gurley, during a news conference. “The deceased is totally innocent. He just happened to be in the hallway. He was not engaged in any criminal activity.”
The shooting occurred Thursday while two officers were patroling the Pink Houses complex in the East New York neighborhood of Brooklyn, The Guardian says. One of the officers, a rookie with 18 months’ experience under his belt, appears to have accidentally fired in a darkened stairwell between the seventh and eighth floors, Bratton said, according to The Guardian.
Gurley was shot in the chest, according to a statement from police, and pronounced dead at Brookdale Hospital.
Before the shooting, Gurley, father of a 2-year-old, was reportedly walking down the stairwell with his girlfriend, Melissa Butler, about 11:15 p.m., the report says.
The incident comes as the nation is bracing for a grand jury decision in the case of Ferguson, Mo., police Officer Darren Wilson, who shot and killed unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown on Aug. 9. The shooting sparked ongoing protests and clashes between protesters and police over the use of excessive force by law enforcement in the black community.
Bratton’s apology comes after the death of Eric Garner, the Staten Island, N.Y., father who died this summer after a New York City police officer put him in a choke hold during an arrest, also causing widespread protests. The incident is still under investigation.
Bratton said the officer who fired the fatal shot at Gurley would be interviewed by the district attorney’s office, the report says. The NYPD’s Internal Affairs department is investigating the incident.
Read more at The Guardian.