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Legal Rights For Accidental Police-Shooting Victims, Families

The accidental death of an unarmed man in a Brooklyn housing project has raised plenty of questions about police protocol. Two police officers were doing routine patrols of the Louis H. Pink houses when one of them accidentally discharged his firearm just as Akai Gurley, 28, entered the stairwell. The errant bullet struck Gurley in the chest, fatally wounding him.

Gurley’s wrongful death is a bit different than most NYPD wrongful death claims, as the victim had no interaction with the police before he was killed. It a nutshell, it was an officer’s clumsiness – and perhaps poor NYPD protocol – that led to Gurley’s death. The first question many people are asking is why was the policeman’s gun not holstered and ready to fire when there was no imminent threat to him?

The NYPD stated that the officer’s decision to patrol with his weapon drawn was permissible and falls within each officer’s discretion. It is probably time for the NYPD to revisit this policy, especially when nonlethal weapons could be substituted for a firearm in situations like the one at the Brooklyn housing project.

Another question is how will New York City compensate Gurley’s surviving family members? Money can never replace the life of a victim, but it can put the financial burden of an accidental death on the parties responsible.

New York’s wrongful death statute allows certain family members to recover money damages, but they need to follow a series of procedural hurdles or they will never recover so much as a dollar. When a wrongful death involves a municipality, the first procedural step is to file a notice of claim.

An experienced NY personal injury lawyer will assist family members through this process and help them avoid making critical mistakes.

Source: The New York Times, “Officer’s Errant Shot Kills Unarmed Brooklyn Man,” Michael Wilson, Nov. 21, 2014

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