As the nation grapples with a backlash against police violence in the black community, family and friends on Friday mourned an unarmed African-American man who was fatally shot by a New York City Police Department officer.
Akai Gurley, 28, was remembered as a loyal father and son at a wake that came hours after the Brooklyn district attorney announced plans to take the case to a grand jury, the Associated Press reports. Police and city officials have called Gurley’s shooting an accident from the very beginning.
Gurley was shot while walking down a stairwell with his girlfriend, Melissa Butler, 27, as they left her seventh-floor apartment at the Louis Pink Houses in Brooklyn, N.Y., on Nov. 20, catapulting his case into the explosive narrative over police use of deadly force in the black community. His memorial came amid protests over the lack of criminal charges against white police officers in the recent deaths of two unarmed black men, Eric Garner, 43, in New York City and Michael Brown, 18, in Ferguson, Mo. The decisions by grand juries not to issue indictments in the cases sparked ongoing protests across the nation.
On Friday, hundreds of mourners gathered at a Brooklyn church to say goodbye to Gurley. “He was an American!” mourner Selina Forfort exclaimed, AP reports.
“Regardless of what’s going on in the world, in the nation, we need to say, ‘Peace, be still,’” state Assemblyman Walter Mosley told the gathering, AP reports. “The day of atonement and judgment will come another day.”
Brooklyn District Attorney Kenneth Thompson said Friday that he would convene a grand jury “because it is important to get to the bottom of what happened,” AP reports. He pledged “a full and fair investigation.”
Read more at the Associated Press.