By Michael Herzenberg
The family of Akai Gurley — the unarmed Brooklyn man shot dead by a police officer — is speaking out about the city’s decision to pay millions of dollars to settle their wrongful death lawsuit. NY1’s Michael Herzenberg has the story.
“I’m just glad it’s done I’m glad we got a conviction my daughter will be taking care of and hopefully I can move on with my life and get my life back,” said Gurley’s domestic partner, Kimberly Ballinger.
Ballinger says her child, Akaila Gurley, deserves to have financial security. At just four years old, she will never really know her father, Akai Gurley.
“She asks for him a lot,” Ballinger said. “Every day she asks if she can see him she asks if she can go to heaven to him.”
Ballinger sued for wrongful death on Akaila’s behalf. The settlement was more than $4.5 million. Her attorney says after his fee of a third, and costs to raise the child, the remaining money will go into secure investments providing Akaila long-term financial support.
“The money will pay her $10 to $12 million over her lifetime,” said attorney Scott Rynecki.
The settlement comes six months after a Brooklyn jury convicted Officer Peter Liang of Involuntary manslaughter in Akai Gurley’s death.
Liang was patrolling the Louis Pink Houses in East New York when he opened a stairwell door, heard a noise and his gun went off.
Gurley was struck by the ricocheting bullet as he entered the stairwell one floor below.
The jury found Liang and his partner failed to help Gurley as he lay dying.
The judge reduced Liang’s conviction to criminally negligent homicide, essentially ruling the shooting an accident, and sentenced him to probation and 800 hours of community service.
Liang, who was fired, will pay part of the settlement.
“This is only the second time an officer has been asked to contribute to a settlement and we think it sends an additional message that you won’t only be held accountable criminally but there’s a chance that you’ll be held accountable civilly,” Rynecki said.
The settlement money breaks down like this: $25,000 from Liang; $4.1 million from the city and $400,000 from the New York City Housing Authority for not fixing the lighting in the stairwell where Gurley was killed.