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Judge Refuses To Drop Some Charges Against Officer In Death Of Akai Gurley

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) -- A judge denied a defense motion Tuesday to drop some charges against a rookie NYPD officer accused in the shooting death of an unarmed man in a Brooklyn stairwell last year.

Officer Peter Liang was indicted in February for manslaughter and a number of other charges in connection with the Nov. 20 shooting that killed 28-year-old Akai Gurley.

He has pleaded not guilty to the charges. The judge on Tuesday denied a motion to dismiss the felony criminal case.

Peter Liang hearing on Akai Gurley death
Akai Gurley's girlfriend, Kimberly Ballinger, and daughter stand with protesters outside a hearing for accused NYPD officer Peter Liang (credit: Sonia Rincon/1010 WINS)

Gurley's girlfriend and members of his family, including his young daughter, attended the court appearance, 1010 WINS' Sonia Rincon reported. They also rallied after the court hearing to call for accountability, 1010 WINS reported.

Gurley's aunt held a sign that said "Justice For Akai Gurley And Family."

Peter Liang hearing on Akai Gurley death
Akai Gurley's aunt, Hertencia Petersen, holds a protest sign outside a hearing for accused NYPD officer Peter Liang (credit: Sonia Rincon/1010 WINS)

Investigators said Liang and his partner were going into a stairwell from the eighth floor of the Pink Houses public housing complex in East New York while Gurley and a friend were going down the stairs from the seventh floor.

Police sources told CBS2 that Liang was trying to open a door while holding a gun, and the gun went off accidentally, hitting Gurley in the torso. Gurley was taken to Brookdale University Hospital and Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.

Court papers released Tuesday say Liang stood in a hallway arguing with his partner about who should call their supervisor to report gunshot, unaware he had struck Gurley.

Gurley's death was classified as a homicide by the New York City Medical Examiner's office shortly after the incident, but cautioned that the ruling "does not imply any statement about intent or culpability."

Liang's attorney claims the shooting was an accident.

But prosecutors say Liang shouldn't have had his finger on the trigger of his gun. They also say Liang didn't call an ambulance after Gurley was shot.

The NYPD placed the officer on modified desk duty after the shooting and stripped him of his gun.

In May, Gurley's family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against New York City. The lawsuit names Liang, his partner and the city's Housing Authority.

(TM and © Copyright 2015 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2015 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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