FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, February 11, 2016
NYPD Officer Convicted Of Manslaughter for Shooting
Unarmed and Innocent Man in Building Staircase
Ignored Police Training, Recklessly Fired His Gun and Then Failed to Aid Victim
Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson today announced that a New York City police officer, Peter Liang, has been convicted of second-degree manslaughter and official misconduct for fatally shooting an innocent and unarmed man – Akai Gurley – in the staircase of a Brooklyn building in November 2014. After recklessly firing his service weapon and striking Gurley, 28, the officer failed to immediately report the incident or render aid to the dying victim.
District Attorney Thompson said, “Today’s verdict represents justice for Akai Gurley who was totally innocent when he was shot and killed that night. This defendant ignored official training that he received as a police officer – specifically never to put his finger on the trigger of his gun unless he was ready to shoot and his reckless actions cost Akai Gurley his life – a life that Peter Liang had sworn to protect. It’s also important to note that this jury’s verdict was against one officer and not against all of the brave and dedicated members of the NYPD who risk their lives every day to keep us safe.”
The defendant Liang, 28, of Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, was convicted today of second-degree manslaughter and official misconduct following a jury trial before Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Danny Chun. He faces a minimum sentence of unconditional discharge and a maximum sentence of five to 15 years in prison when he is sentenced on April 14, 2016.
The District Attorney said that, according to trial testimony, on November 20, 2014, the defendant and his partner were on foot patrol inside 2724 Linden Boulevard, a building in the Louis Pink Houses in East New York, Brooklyn. At about 11:14 p.m., the defendant pulled out his service revolver and pushed open a door that leads into a darkened stairwell on the 8th floor. He fired his gun once after he heard a sound and the bullet ricocheted off a wall, striking near where Gurley was standing in the chest, as the victim entered the 7th floor landing at the same time.
The evidence established that Gurley was totally innocent and unarmed and that Officer Liang was not under any threat that should have caused him to place his finger on the trigger of his gun and fire it. Therefore, there was no justification for the shooting. Specifically, the evidence showed that the defendant’s actions were contrary to what he learned in the Police Academy regarding gun safety and contrary to the NYPD’s Firearms Guidelines, which instructs that “if the firearm must be drawn the trigger finger should be placed outside the trigger guard and pointed in a safe direction.” The defendant had to exert 11½ pounds of pressure to fire his gun, which was fitted with a trigger that required more force to operate than a regular gun to avoid an accidental discharge, according to testimony.
After the shooting, the defendant failed to immediately report the incident, contrary to the NYPD Patrol Guide, the evidence showed. While the victim’s friend was trying to save him by performing CPR, with the help of a neighbor who was on the phone with a 911 operator, the defendant first argued with his partner about who would radio in the incident and later failed to render any medical aid, also in violation of the Patrol Guide. He “did nothing,” according to witness testimony.
The case was prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney Marc Fliedner, Chief of the District Attorney’s Civil Rights Bureau, Assistant District Attorney Joseph Alexis, Chief of the District Attorney’s Trial Bureau, Red Zone, and Senior Assistant District Attorney Ann Bordley of the District Attorney’s Appeals Bureau, under the overall supervision of Executive Assistant District Attorney William E. Schaeffer, Chief of the District Attorney’s Investigations Division.