Shooting of Unarmed Man Not Like Garner Chokehold or Ferguson, Bill de Blasio Says

Mayor Bill de Blasio. (Photo: Ilya Savenok/Getty Images)

Mayor Bill de Blasio. (Photo: Ilya Savenok/Getty Images)

Mayor Bill de Blasio said today that the police shooting of an unarmed Brooklyn man last night was not like Eric Garner and Michael Brown controversies, but cautioned that relations between the NYPD and communities of color are far from healed.

“Each incident is different, each of them has their own dynamic,” Mr. de Blasio told reporters at an unrelated press conference in the Bronx. “It’s a tragic situation, that’s the bottom line.”

“I won’t conclude anything until there’s a full investigation,” he added.

A “nervous” rookie police officer shot the unarmed Akai Gurley, 28, in the chest and he died shortly after, according to a Daily News report. Mr. Gurley was in a dimly-lit stairwell of his girlfriend’s East New York housing project apartment–the shooting appeared to be an accident, Mr. de Blasio said.

The mayor also said the officer was placed on modified duty with the removal of his gun and badge.

The shooting comes several months after the death of another unarmed man during an encounter with police. Eric Garner, a black Staten Island man, died after police placed him an apparent chokehold, a prohibited maneuver, setting off protests in July and August. In Ferguson, Missouri, the August police shooting of Brown became a national controversy.

“I don’t think it’s necessarily right to connect the dots,” Mr. de Blasio said of the Garner incident. “We have a lot of work to do,” he continued, arguing that the public is “discerning” and this latest incident won’t inflame tensions further.

Mr. de Blasio has repeatedly vowed to improve relations between the NYPD and minority communities, winding down the use of stop-and-frisk and announcing a new policy to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana. But the type of police patrols in public housing buildings that led to Gurley’s death remain controversial and some liberals have criticized Mr. de Blasio for not doing more to reform police practices.

“I don’t think anyone has minimized how much work we have to do. We’re trying to undo years and sometimes decades of divisions and problems,” he said.