At Funeral For New York Man Shot By Police — More Outrage
ARUN RATH, HOST:
In New York today, protestors gathered in the name of another young, unarmed black man who died at the hands of police. All week, there have been demonstrations around the country after a Staten Island grand jury decided not to indict a police officer in the death of Eric Garner. Today in Brooklyn, protesters gathered for Akai Gurley. Police say an officer accidentally shot and killed Gurley last month. This afternoon, there was a march and rally at the site where Gurley died. Before that, his family held a funeral. NPR's Jeff Brady was there.
JEFF BRADY, BYLINE: The funeral took place at Brown Memorial Baptist Church in Brooklyn.
(SOUNDBITE OF EULOGY)
KEVIN POWELL: Yea. Are y'all with me out there? Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death...
BRADY: Kevin Powell, with the activist group BK Nation, led the eulogy.
POWELL: ...Goodness and mercy shall me follow all the days of my life.
POWELL: And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Amen.
BRADY: Akai Gurley died in a stairwell of a public housing building. A policeman shot him. Authorities say it was an accident, and they've apologized to the family. But exactly what happened still isn't clear. Brooklyn District Attorney Kenneth Thompson says he'll put the case before a grand jury by the end of the month. The funeral for Gurley was traditional - everyone dressed in black and the family up front - but it also had a strong political tone. Among those speaking was Malkia King, a local union official.
MALKIA KING: This is a national embarrassment, especially as we project to the world that we are the model of a free and democratic society. For Akai, we demand a full, transparent investigation. We demand trial for the officer. And, lastly, we demand a democratic community of controlled police.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG)
UNIDENTIFIED WOMEN: (Singing) I never lost my hope.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (Singing) Lost my hope...
UNIDENTIFIED WOMEN: (Singing) I never lost my...
BRADY: Outside the church, Crystal Cook says Akai Gurley was her friend.
CRYSTAL COOK: He loved singing, rapping, making you laugh - outgoing. And, most of all, he was a friend, so we definitely lost somebody that meant a lot.
BRADY: Nearby, Mike Tucker with the Lay the Guns Down Foundation in Brooklyn says he didn't know Akai, but was there to support the family. He says the relationship between police and the black community needs to be repaired.
MIKE TUCKER: The problem is that the community is scared of the police department. The police department is scared of the community. So these officers are in the area that is not known to them, and, you know, they're scared.
BRADY: Akai Gurley's family entered and left the church without saying anything. They remained mostly composed throughout the service, but those who spoke left a clear message. They want justice, and they hope something good will come of the young man's death. Jeff Brady, NPR News, New York. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.