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New York To Pay Settlement Of Over $4 Million To The Family Of A Black Man Who Was Killed By A Police Officer

Akai Gurley

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According to NY Daily News, The city has agreed to pay over $4 million to settle a wrongful death claim filed by the family of Akai Gurley, the unarmed black man who was fatally shot by a cop in the stairwell of a Brooklyn housing project, the Daily News has learned.

The city and NYCHA are both contributing to the settlement — and the ex-police officer who escaped jail time for Gurley’s death in the Pink Houses is paying a price too.

Former cop Peter Liang, will pay $25,000 to Kimberly Ballinger, the mother of Gurley’s young daughter Akaila.

The city’s on the hook for $4.1 million and the New York City Housing Authority is paying $400,000.

The money will be put into a fund for Akaila which can’t be touched without court approval until she is 18. But the money will be invested in rock-solid annuities that will actually provide the girl with an estimated $10 million over the course of her lifetime.

“I’m glad it’s all done. I’m pleased with the outcome,” Ballinger, 26, told The News Monday, while waiting for Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Dawn Jimenez-Salta to sign off on the settlement late in the afternoon.

Jimenez-Salta presided over the intense two-month negotiations.

Ballinger’s wrongful death suit charged Liang and his co-worker Shaun Landau of being negligent and reckless, and NYCHA was cited for failing to repair a light bulb in the stairwell where the fatal shooting occurred Nov. 20, 2014.Gurley, 28, was a resident of the Louis Pink Houses in East New York. The night he died, he’d gone to the seventh-floor home of friend Melissa Butler.The two of them decided to go out, and because the elevator wasn’t working, took the stairs to the lobby.Liang and Landau, both 28, were performing a vertical patrol in the building and entered the pitch-dark stairwell one floor above Gurley and Butler.Liang had his gun out and his finger on the trigger which is a violation of NYPD procedure.

Liang testified that he accidentally fired one shot that ricocheted off the wall and struck Gurley in the chest.

The mortally wounded man staggered down to the fourth floor where he collapsed.

Liang was convicted in February by a Brooklyn jury of manslaughter, but Supreme Court Justice Danny Chun reduced the charge to criminally negligent homicide and sentenced the ex-cop — the rookie was fired upon being convicted of a felony — to 800 hours of community service.

The senseless shooting was made worse by Liang and Landau arguing for two minutes over who should call their supervisor as Gurley was fighting for his life. Butler frantically conducted chest compressions with instruction from a neighbor who called 911. Landau was also booted off the force.

Butler has a pending lawsuit against the city contending that she suffered emotional trauma. That case is still pending in state civil court and the city’s lawyers have filed a motion to have it thrown out. Both cops said they didn’t know how to perform CPR.

“We hope the new incoming police commissioner James O’Neill will use this case as an example to review practices and procedures that are ongoing in the academy as well as in the street with pairing two rookies together,” said Ballinger’s attorney Scott Rynecki.

Before Liang was sentenced, he met with Ballinger in the office of the Brooklyn district attorney and apologized.

If Liang wins the appeal for his criminal conviction, it will not affect Akaila ‘s settlement.

The tot is still reeling from the loss.

“She still has her days when she cries and asks for her father,” Ballinger said.

A city Law Department spokesman said the agency felt it was a “a fair resolution of a tragic matter.”

City Hall took “significant steps to strengthen the relationship between our officers and the communities they serve” after Gurley’s death, the mayor’s spokeswoman said.

Liang was the second officer convicted of an on-duty homicide in more than a decade.

The previous officer, Bryan Conroy, was found guilty of the criminally negligent homicide of Ousmane Zongo.

Zongo’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit and were awarded $3 million.

Conroy was ordered to pay $5,000 of the settlement.

The city made two other high-profile payouts recently to the families of unarmed black men who suffered police-involved deaths. In January 2015 it paid $3.9 million to the family of Bronx teen Ramarley Graham, 18, who was shot inside his home on Feb. 2, 2012 after being chased by an officer who thought he had a gun.

Source: New York Daily News

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