By Jonathan Allen
NEW YORK (Reuters) - A New York City rookie police officer was indicted by a grand jury on Tuesday for the fatal shooting of an unarmed man while patrolling the darkened stairwell of a housing project last November, local media reported.
Peter Liang, the officer, was patrolling with his partner in the Brooklyn housing project around 11:15 p.m. on Nov. 20 when his gun discharged a single bullet, killing Akai Gurley, 28, who was in the stairwell a flight below with his girlfriend.
The criminal charge or charges Liang will face in Gurley's death were not immediately clear from several media reports, which were based on unnamed sources, although at least two city newspapers said the charges include manslaughter and negligent homicide.
A spokeswoman for Kenneth Thompson, the Brooklyn district attorney who oversaw the grand jury's secret consideration of Liang's case, declined to comment. His office later announced he would hold a news conference following an arraignment on Wednesday afternoon, although the announcement did not directly refer to the Gurley case.
The death of Gurley, who was black, followed other incidents of police involvement in the deaths of unarmed black men in New York and Missouri that sparked waves of national protests.
Mayor Bill de Blasio, who has angered many members of his police force by expressing support for some of those protests, released a statement reacting to the reports that the grand jury had voted.
"No matter the specific charges, this case is an unspeakable tragedy for the Gurley family," his statement said.
Patrick Lynch, the president of Liang's union, the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, said the officer deserved the same due process afforded to anyone "involved in the accidental death of another."
Lynch emphasized in his statement that Liang was assigned to patrol what he described as one of the city's most dangerous housing projects.
(Editing by Sandra Maler, Peter Cooney and Eric Walsh)