Elected officials told mourners the world was watching Friday as they remembered a man shot dead by a police officer in a darkened public housing stairwell.
At a wake that came hours after the Brooklyn district attorney announced plans to take the case to a grand jury, Akai Gurley was mourned by relatives.
But Gurley also has become part of a narrative of anguish over police use of deadly force, with his wake coming amid protests over the lack of criminal charges against white police officers in the recent deaths of black men in New York City and Ferguson, Missouri.
“We know because of the circumstances that brought about Akai’s death, the entire world family is watching,” the city’s elected public advocate, Letitia James, told the gathering.
Brooklyn DA Kenneth Thompson said Friday he would convene a grand jury “because it is important to get to the bottom of what happened,” pledging “a full and fair investigation.”
Al Sharpton initially planned to speak at Gurley’s service Friday but later said he wouldn’t attend because of differences among Gurley’s relatives. Instead, former Black Panther Councilman-elect Charles Barron attended with the family.