NYPD Cop Found Guilty of Manslaughter in Akai Gurley Stairwell Shooting Death

NYPD Cop Found Guilty of Manslaughter in Akai Gurley Stairwell Shooting Death

Officer Peter Liang has been found guilty of manslaughter in the shooting death of Akai Gurley. He has also been found guilty of official misconduct for not helping Gurley, 28, as he bled to death.

Liang’s defense attorneys argued that the rookie cop did not get proper training in CPR at the police academy, and that he panicked after accidentally firing his weapon in the darkened stairwell. Gurley’s girlfriend, Melissa Butler, performed CPR while another woman called 911.

“No matter what happened in the police academy with police training, you can rest assured Peter Liang, Shaun, and every other graduate of the academy was better equipped, better trained, and able to do the chest compressions Melissa Butler was forced to do while she knelt in [Gurley’s] blood and urine,” assistant district attorney Joseph Alexis said in closing arguments earlier this week.

“This is not an accident. This is an officer who couldn’t properly handle his gun,” Alexis said. “It’s no accident [the bullet] hit the wall steps away from where Akai Gurley stood.”

According to the Wall Street Journal, the last NYPD officer to be found guilty in a civilian’s shooting death was Bryan Conroy, convicted by a Manhattan judge of criminally negligent homicide in 2005.

The jury in Liang’s trial deliberated for a little more than two days, the New York Times reports. Liang faces up to 15 years.

Photo via AP Images. Contact the author of this post: brendan.oconnor@gawker.com.

Five Arrested, Four Charged With Involuntary Manslaughter in East Village Building Explosion

Five Arrested, Four Charged With Involuntary Manslaughter in East Village Building ExplosionThree buildings on Second Avenue in Manhattan collapsed after a gas explosion last March.

On Thursday, the NYPD arrested five people in connection with the East Village gas explosion that killed two people and leveled three buildings last spring. Four were charged with involuntary manslaughter. Prosecutors said that the building owner’s greed and willingness to take shortcuts caused the loss of life.


At a press conference announcing the charges, Cy Vance Jr., the Manhattan district attorney, said that the landlord at 121 Second Avenue was looking to cash in on skyrocketing rents in the neighborhood, as “financial incentives to take shortcuts has never been stronger.” From the New York Times:

Mr. Vance outlined a scheme as contemptible as it was craven, involving a crooked contractor, an unscrupulous plumber, a greedy landlord and her son — all so eager to get tenants into newly renovated apartments with the average rent running $6,000 per month that they were willing to cast aside any concern for safety.

Even in the last moments before the explosion, two of the defendants are accused of running out of the building without warning any of the residents or patrons inside a ground-floor restaurant or even calling 911.

“The individuals involved in the East Village gas explosion showed a blatant and callous disregard for human life,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said in an unusually blunt statement.

“We are heartened that today these defendants will be brought to justice and forced to answer for their criminal actions,” he said.

The building owner, Maria Hrynenko, and her son, Michael Hrynenko Jr., were both charged with involuntary manslaughter, as were a contractor hired to renovate the six-story building’s apartments in 2013, Dilber Kukic, and an unlicensed plumber, Athanasios Ioannidis. Andrew Trombettas is also facing charges for supplying his license to Ioannidis.


Prosecutors say that the defendants created an illegal gas link, tapping into the line of the building next door, at 119 Second Avenue. “When greed guides the decisions and respect for human life doesn’t, this is the result,” the fire commissioner, Daniel Nigro, said.

Photo via AP Images. Contact the author of this post: brendan.oconnor@gawker.com.

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Ten Years Ago Today, Dick Cheney Almost Killed a Man He Barely Knew

Ten Years Ago Today, Dick Cheney Almost Killed a Man He Barely Knew

Of all the destruction waged by Dick Cheney during his eight-year run of terror in the White House, one incident stands out as the oddest: On February 11, 2006, Cheney shot a hunting partner in the face, nearly killing him. The incident is as fondly remembered as anything could be with Cheney, perhaps because it’s the only one of his un-prosecuted crimes that qualifies as slapstick. But there were several misconceptions about the man on the other side of Cheney’s shotgun, including that he was friends with the vice president, that he only suffered superficial wounds, and that it was merely an unavoidable accent.

When Harry M. Whittington, a prominent attorney in Austin, arrived at Armstrong Ranch in the very southeastern tip of Texas, he had a deep connection not to Cheney, but instead to a few other notorious Republicans of the George W. Bush era. One was Bush himself, who knew Whittington from their days as good ol’ boys—when Bush was still governor in 1999, he picked Whittington to temporarily run the Texas Funeral Service Commission. The other was Karl Rove, who Mike Allen, writing for Time, described as “a longtime friend” of Whittington’s.

But a 2010 Washington Post profile of Whittington dispelled the notion that Whittington and Cheney were friends:

News accounts routinely described Whittington as Cheney’s “old friend” and “hunting buddy.” In fact, the two men barely knew each other. Before the shooting, they had met briefly only three times since the mid-1970s and had never gone hunting together before. “The most you could say is that he was an acquaintance,” Whittington says.

Cheney, ever the humanitarian, didn’t bother to get any closer to Whittington after he sprayed birdshot into the man’s face, neck and torso:

The shooting didn’t bring Cheney and Whittington any closer. Although Whittington says they’ve exchanged birthday greetings, they haven’t seen each other for two years. The last time they met was when they attended the funeral of Anne Armstrong, the ranch owner whose invitation drew the two men together.

Despite his scars, Whittington bears no ill will toward Cheney. He calls him “a very capable and honorable man” and adds, “He’s said some very kind things to me.”

But did Cheney ever say in private what he didn’t say in public? Did he ever apologize?

Whittington, who has been talking about his life and career for hours, suddenly draws silent.

I’m not going to go into that,” he says sharply after a short pause.

Harry Whittington is too gracious to say it out loud, but he doesn’t dispute the notion, either.

Nearly five years on, he’s still waiting for Dick Cheney to say he’s sorry.

To this day, five years after that, Whittington still hasn’t gotten a personal apology from Cheney, and it seems like he’s stopped expecting one. Via the Daily News:

“He never did need to apologize. It was an accident,” he told the Daily News. “He expressed his concern about me publicly, but he never had reason to apologize because we knew how seriously he was affected by it.”

There was one person who did apologize, though: Harry Whittington, who six days after the accident, held a press conference in which he said:

My family and I are deeply sorry for all Vice President Cheney and his family have had to go through this week. We send our love and respect to them as they deal with situations that are much more serious than we’ve had this week.

So how did Whittington end up getting blasted by Cheney? Well, the blame shifts depending on who you ask. In a New York Times story from four days after the shooting, Katharine Armstrong, whose family owns the ranch where it took place, pinned it on Whittington:

According to Katharine Armstrong, the daughter of Anne Armstrong, Mr. Whittington broke away from a line of three hunters, including Mr. Cheney, and failed to announce that he was returning to the group. When he approached, Mr. Cheney had already begun to shoot into a covey of quail that was taking off from the ground.

“This all happened pretty quickly,” Ms. Armstrong said in a telephone interview from her ranch. Mr. Whittington, she said, “did not announce — which would be protocol — ‘Hey, it’s me, I’m coming up,’ “ she said.

“He didn’t do what he was supposed to do,” she added, referring to Mr. Whittington. “So when a bird flushed and the vice president swung in to shoot it, Harry was where the bird was.”

But the Armstrong family might have been apt to downplay Cheney’s responsibility considering their history with him:

Anne Armstrong, the matriarch of the family that owns the ranch, is a Republican Party stalwart who served in the Nixon and Ford administrations and also as ambassador to Great Britain. When her husband, Tobin Armstrong, died in October, Mr. Cheney and James A. Baker III, the former secretary of state, spoke at the funeral.

The Washington Post profile of Whittington tells a differing account which, if you can believe it, paints Dick Cheney as someone who might act recklessly when in control of weaponry:

Whittington recalls that he was standing off to Cheney’s right, looking for a downed bird. He doesn’t remember exactly how far away he was when Cheney, tracking a bird, twisted quickly in his direction and fired. Whittington was angled toward Cheney at the time; hence, the wounds on his right side. Cheney later told a police investigator that he was standing in a slightly elevated position relative to Whittington, meaning he was aiming downward. The police report notes that Whittington would have been wounded on the lower half of his body if he and Cheney had been on same level.

This violates two basic rules of hunting safety, says Ralph Stuart, the editor of Shooting Sportsman, a hunting magazine. The first is the shooter’s obligation to ensure that he has a clear line of fire before pulling the trigger. The second is the “blue-sky rule,” meaning that a hunter shouldn’t fire until he can see blue sky beneath a bird, thus greatly reducing the chances of hitting another hunter or dog. “Quail often fly low and demand lower shots,” Stuart points out, but that makes it “doubly important” that the shooter is aware of what’s between him and the bird and just beyond.

Whittington, as the Washington Post story makes clear, was not about to hang Cheney out to dry, and anyway the group was hunting under less than ideal conditions, including low light and probably some drink. Via the Post:

Whether alcohol played any role in the shooting has long been a point of speculation. Eyewitnesses, including ranch owner Anne Armstrong and her daughter Katharine, strongly denied it. Cheney did, too, although he later told Fox News that he had had “one beer” during a picnic lunch some five hours earlier. Whittington says alcohol “was available” at the picnic, but he didn’t notice if anyone was drinking at lunch or afterward when the hunting party took a midafternoon break. The police investigation was useless on this point; even if Cheney had been given a Breathalyzer test, the result would have been meaningless since authorities didn’t speak to Cheney until the next morning.

Either way, Whittington got severely fucked up by Cheney. He may or may not have had a mild heart attack caused by an irregular heartbeat triggered by buckshot in his chest (Whittington called it a heart “event.”) Via the Post:

Still, the injuries were more dire than previously disclosed. Whittington suffered a collapsed lung. He underwent invasive exploratory surgery, as doctors probed his vital organs for signs of damage. The load from Cheney’s gun came close to, but didn’t damage, the carotid artery in his neck. A rupture could have been fatal, particularly since it took the better part of an hour to transport him from the vast Armstrong ranch to the Kingsville hospital.

When the Post’s Paul Farhi interviewed Whittington for the story, he still had visible wounds from Cheney’s gun:

Whittington sweeps a hand up to his dusky face and points near his right eye, then to the right side of his forehead. The eye socket, hairline and hand have birdshot pellets lodged in them, too. If you look closely — and strangers occasionally sidle up to him to do just that — the accident’s remnants are evident; there’s a tiny bump in each spot.

Every so often, for months afterward, some of the lead in Whittington’s body worked its way to the surface. But many pieces remain too deeply embedded to remove, including one near his heart. At 82, Whittington knows he will live the rest of his days with about 30 pieces of shot inside him. Somehow, he jokes, he can get through a metal detector without causing a commotion

During the course of his interview with Farhi, Whittington shows the writer the vest he was wearing the day he was shot, which Farhi says is “splattered with brownish, irregularly shaped bloodstains.” Whittington kept it, Farhi explains, to teach people about the “dangers of firearms.”

Harry Whittington saved the vest not just as a souvenir but as a warning. He shows it to friends, and to the children of friends, to illustrate the dangers of firearms. “It’s an education for them,” he says.

Indeed, in much the same way, Dick Cheney’s vice presidency was an education for the world.

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