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New York lawmakers meet to address police shooting of unarmed man

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[November 24, 2014]  By Victoria Cavaliere
 (Reuters) - New York City elected officials were meeting on Sunday to discuss community concerns following the shooting death of an unarmed man in Brooklyn by a police officer who said his weapon discharged accidentally, officials said.

A spokeswoman for Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson said he was meeting with city leaders, including U.S. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries and Rep. Nydia Velazquez, to discuss calls for a full investigation and the officer's arrest.

Thompson has promised a "thorough" probe into the Thursday night shooting of Akai Gurley, 28, who was killed in a dimly lit stairwell of a Brooklyn housing project by a rookie New York City police officer on a routine patrol, the spokeswoman said.

The New York Police Department said it has launched its own investigation into the incident, including why Officer Peter Liang, 27, had unholstered his weapon as he and his partner canvassed the stairwells of the Louis H. Pink Houses in the East New York section of Brooklyn.

Gurley and a female companion were using the stairwell because of a long wait for the elevator. The unarmed man was struck by a single bullet to the chest, police said.

The shooting comes amid an increased focus on allegations of excessive police force in departments across the country.

In Ferguson, Missouri, anxious residents on Sunday were awaiting a grand jury decision on whether to charge a white policeman in the shooting death of an shot an unarmed black teen this summer.

Protesters in Brooklyn late Saturday marched in front of the police precinct where Officer Liang is assigned.

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Chanting "we want justice," about 200 demonstrators called for Liang's immediate dismissal and arrest, local news station NY1 reported.

New York City Police Commissioner Bill Bratton called the shooting a "very unfortunate tragedy" and said Gurley, unarmed and headed to his girlfriend's apartment was a "total innocent."

He also said an early investigation indicated that Liang's gun went off unintentionally.

"It appears to be an accidental discharge with no intention to strike anybody at this time," Bratton said.

(Reporting by Victoria Cavaliere; Editing by Frank McGurty and Marguerita Choy)

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