New York prepares for funeral of man killed by police

New York prepared Friday for funeral services for an unarmed black man shot dead by a young police officer in the stairwell of a Brooklyn apartment building.

Family and friends will hold a wake for 28-year-old Akai Gurley at 5:00 pm (2200 GMT) at the Brown Memorial Baptist Church in Brooklyn, followed by a funeral service at the same church on Saturday at 11:00 am.

The New York Daily News reported Friday that the officer who fired the fatal bullet texted his union representative as Gurley lay dying in the dimly-lit staircase late at night on November 20.

Right after rookie cop Peter Liang discharged the single bullet that struck Gurley, he and partner Shaun Landau did not respond to radio contact for more than six and a half minutes, the newspaper said.

"That's showing negligence," it quoted a law enforcement source as saying of the pair's decision to text their union rep before making a radio call for help.

A neighbor instead phoned for the ambulance that took Gurley to hospital, where he was declared dead on arrival.

The Daily News said the police pair's commanding officer and an emergency operator had tried but been unable to reach the duo.

Gurley is one of a string of black men who have been killed recently at the hands of police in the United States, fueling national controversy over race relations and police tactics.

The deaths have triggered a debate about how minorities are treated by law enforcement officers and the US criminal justice system.

New York police commissioner Bill Bratton said on November 21 that Gurley had been a "total innocent" who was killed by an "accidental discharge" in an "unfortunate tragedy."

Thousands of protesters clogged streets in New York and other major US cities for two consecutive nights after a grand jury on Wednesday decided not to indict another white officer for the death by chokehold of an unarmed black father-of-six in July.

Demonstrators blocked roads, tunnels and bridges, shouting "I can't breathe" -- the words that asthma sufferer Eric Garner, 43, gasped repeatedly as police wrestled and held him to the ground during his arrest in July for selling un-taxed cigarettes.

Civil rights activist Al Sharpton's National Action Network is scheduled to hold another rally outside its national headquarters, The House of Justice, in Harlem, New York, on Saturday morning.