US & Canada

US police shooting: Funeral for shot NYC man

Kimberly Michelle Ballinger, the domestic partner of Akai Gurley, center right, exits Brown Baptist Church during the funeral for Gurley, Saturday, Dec. 6, 2014 Image copyright AFP
Image caption Family members including Akai Gurley's partner Kimberley attended the funeral in Brooklyn

The funeral of an unarmed black New Yorker fatally shot by police last month has taken place in Brooklyn.

Akai Gurley was shot in the chest after he entered the stairwell of his apartment building.

A grand jury will be asked whether to prosecute the officer responsible.

The move comes days after a grand jury decided not to charge another New York policeman over the chokehold death of another unarmed black man, Eric Garner, sparking protests across the country.

The US was already facing race-related unrest over the decision not to indict a white police officer who had shot dead a young black man, Michael Brown, in Ferguson, Missouri.

'Modern-day lynchings'

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Media captionA grand jury is still considering whether the police officer who killed Akai Gurley should be charged

The funeral took place at Brown Baptist Church in Brooklyn on Saturday.

Gurley's mother, stepfather and two-year-old daughter were among those who attended the service.

Activist Kevin Powell delivered the eulogy for the 28-year-old.

"Akai was innocent, innocent, innocent," he said.

"This is modern-day lynchings, over and over again. Akai Gurley was simply the latest victim of this," he added.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Members of Gurley's family including his mother and stepfather attended a wake on Friday

The funeral featured music from gospel singers and a poem read by Gurley's younger brother.

Protests against police violence towards minorities continued on Saturday for a fourth day.

The latest spate of protests was sparked by the decision by a grand jury not to to charge a New York policeman over the death of Eric Garner, who died after police put him in a chokehold.

Hundreds streamed along Fifth Avenue and other parts of Manhattan on Friday evening , with banners and chants of "Black lives matter" and "I can't breathe" - a reference to Garner's last words.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Protests took place outside the Brown Baptist Church during the funeral service
Image copyright AP
Image caption Candles have been left at the housing project where Akai Gurley was shot dead
Image copyright AP
Image caption Akai Gurley's partner Kimberly Ballinger, left, has been comforted by Lesley McSpadden, mother of Michael Brown

In announcing the grand jury - a body that determines whether to bring criminal charges - Brooklyn's District Attorney Ken Thompson said it was important to conduct a full and fair investigation.

Police say Mr Gurley and his girlfriend had opened a door into the unlit stairway and an inexperienced officer on a routine patrol fired his gun.

The medical examiner has ruled that the death is a homicide. New York Police Commissioner William Bratton called the shooting an accident.

Civil rights leader the Reverend Al Sharpton had initially planned to speak at Mr Gurley's memorial service but later said he would pay his respects without making an address.

Activists have called for another march in Washington on 13 December, followed by a summit on civil rights.


Akai Gurley

Image copyright Reuters
  • The 28-year-old father (daughter Akaila above) was killed in November in a Brooklyn apartment building as he walked with his girlfriend
  • He was shot by a rookie New York police officer
  • New York Police Commissioner William Bratton later said Gurley was a totally innocent victim
  • Gurley's family have demanded justice

13%

of the US population is black

  • 28% of suspects arrested in the US in 2010 were black

  • 32% of people killed from 2003 to 2009 in arrest-related incidents were black

  • 42% of inmates on death row in 2012 were black