The head of the New York Police Department said on Friday that the shooting of an unarmed black man by one of his rookie officers the night before was an “unfortunate accident,” The New York Times reported.
Police Commissioner Bill Bratton spoke about the incident at a news conference alongside Mayor Bill de Blasio.
The Times reported that officer Peter Liang was patrolling a housing complex with his partner on Thursday night when he shot and killed Akai Gurley, 28, of Brooklyn.
“We don’t know enough yet, but it does appear to be an accident,” de Blasio said, according to the paper. “This is a tragedy.”
Bratton echoed that sentiment to the Times saying Gurley was a “total innocent” who wasn’t doing anything besides trying to walk down a darkened stairwell.
Liang, who had been with the NYPD for less than 18 months, drew his flashlight and his gun upon entering the stairwell, the Times reported. At the same time, Gurley and his girlfriend entered the stairwell from a different floor.
“One officer discharged one round from his service weapon, striking the male in the chest,” police said in a statement obtained by the Times.
The newspaper reported Liang was placed on modified assignment and was relieved of both his badge and gun after the incident.
Ahiza Garcia is a newswriter based in New York City. Before joining TPM, Ahiza interned and freelanced for Nightline, Fox Sports, and ESPN the Magazine. She holds a B.A. in psychology from Columbia University and an M.S. in digital journalism from Syracuse University. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.