The fatal shooting, which officials described as a tragic accident, happened during a vertical patrol late Thursday — months after the superintendent of the Brooklyn development asked NYCHA to fix the stairwell lights.
But it wasn’t until Friday morning — hours after Akai Gurley was killed — that workers finally replaced the lights at the Pink Houses in Brooklyn.
The helpless girlfriend of 28-year-old Gurley, 28, recounted watching him die in a puddle of blood after the routine police patrol turned into a horror show.
“They need to pay for his funeral,” said Melissa Butler, 27. “They killed him. Ya’ll killed an innocent man.”
Gurley was gunned down when probationary Officer Peter Liang’s .9 mm accidentally discharged, with a bullet ricocheting off the wall and tearing into his chest, sources said.
A devastated Liang “was a crying mess,” a police source told the Daily News. “Breathing heavy. He was sitting on the floor for 45 minutes. He was a mess.”
His partner, in a version of Thursday night’s events echoed by Mayor de Blasio and NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton, said the fatal shooting was a bizarre mistake.
Liang “heard a noise,” the police source told the News. “It was dark. He must have been nervous.”
Gurley and Butler, who had just finished braiding her boyfriend’s hair, only took the stairs because of a slow-moving elevator. They opened the seventh-floor stairwell door at about the same instant that Liang and his partner entered from one floor up.
Liang was upstairs from Gurley when his gun accidentally fired as he opened the door, his partner Officer Shaun Landau told investigators.
But it was unclear if the left-handed Liang was holding the weapon in the same hand that he used to open the door. A mark on the stairwell wall indicates the bullet ricocheted before striking Gurley. it was the only bullet fired.
The wounded man actually ran for his life after hearing the gunshot, and didn’t realize he was bleeding until collapsing on the fifth floor.
“I shot him accidentally,” the devastated cop confessed to his colleagues. His partner Landau never pulled his weapon from its holster.
Bratton and de Blasio agreed the shooting was a terrible mistake — although Liang had yet to tell his story to police.
“What happened last night was a very unfortunate tragedy,” Bratton said Friday. “… It appears this may have been in fact an accidental discharge.”
Bratton, along with de Blasio and First Lady Chirlane McCray, visited Gurley’s family in Red Hook, Brooklyn, for about 10 minutes on Friday night. They didn’t speak to reporters, but Kirsten Foy, of the National Action Network, was inside the apartment during the meeting.
Foy said the city’s top cop, the mayor and McCray hugged and kissed Kimberly Michelle Ballinger, a woman identified as Gurley’s “common-law wife” and the mother of his 2-year-old daughter.
“They offered their apologies, condolences and support going forward so she was heartened by that…grateful,” Foy said. “It was a very human moment for them.”
Devastated gal pal Butler, with tears pouring down her face earlier Friday, said Liang blasted Gurley without identifying himself or even addressing the couple.
The only sound was the deafening echo of the gunshot in the stairwell at the Pink Houses.