Man shot by police in New York was a 'total innocent'

NEW YORK (AFP) - An unarmed 28-year-old man shot dead in a dark New York stairwell by a rookie police officer was a "total innocent" killed accidentally, police commissioner Bill Bratton said Friday.

Akai Gurley just entered the stairwell at the Louis H. Pink Houses, a housing project in Brooklyn, with his girlfriend when he was shot once in the chest at around 11.15pm on Thursday.

He was taken to Brookdale Hospital and pronounced dead.

Bratton told a news conference Friday that the victim appeared to have been a "total innocent" engaged in no criminal activity.

"What happened last night was a very unfortunate tragedy," he told reporters saying that the incident was under investigation by New York police and the Brooklyn district attorney's office.

"It appears that this may in fact have been an accidental discharge," Bratton said.

Gurley was shot as a pair of rookie officers were conducting a routine interior patrol of the apartment building, which has been a scene of crime and homicides in the recent past.

The lights were not working on the seventh and eighth floors of the building, leaving the stairwell dimly lit although both officers were equipped with flashlights.

After the shot was discharged, the officers found Gurley on the fifth floor where his girlfriend was administering first aid.

The couple initially intended to take the elevator to exit the building but opted for the stairs when it took too long to arrive.