NBC News reports that the predominantly White jury found Liang guilty of second-degree manslaughter, second-degree assault, second-degree reckless endangerment, criminally negligent homicide and official misconduct for shooting (and subsequently not assisting) Akai Gurley. His conviction comes at a time when several law enforcement officers—including the ones who killed Tamir Rice and Eric Garner—have walked free after killing unarmed Black people.
NBC New York (@NBCNewYork) February 12, 2016
Liang, who is Chinese-American, was patrolling the Louis H. Pink Houses in Brooklyn, New York, on November 20, 2014, when he fired a shot into a dark stairwell. The bullet ricocheted and fatally struck Gurley, 28, who was walking down the stairs. A witness testified that Liang made no attempts to resuscitate Gurley, who was Black. The defense argued that Liang accidentally discharged his weapon. The prosecution charged that he actually aimed and missed, but the bouncing bullet finished the job when it hit Gurley’s heart. His partner, Shaun Landau, was given immunity in exchange for his testimony during trial.
Following the decision, Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association (PBA) president Patrick J. Lynch said that the jury made a wrong move. “This was a terrible and tragic accident and not a crime,” he said. “This bad verdict will have a chilling effect on police officers across the city because it criminalizes a tragic accident.”
Gurley’s mother, Sylvia Palmer, said she was glad for the conviction. “First, I want to thank God, and then I want to thank the District Attorney’s Office,” she said. “They did an awesome job.”
Much as they were when Liang was indicted, reactions were mixed from some corners of the local Chinese-American community.
The Committee Against Anti-Asian Violence has scheduled a rally this evening at the NYPD’s headquarters, posting on Facebook that “CAAAV believes that this case means that we need to unite to #holdALLcopsaccountable and that we all need to fight to hold our District Attorneys accountable for also prosecuting white officers. At the end of the day, a life was stolen by Officer Peter Liang.”
Meanwhile, a Facebook group called Free Officer Peter Liang—created by an unidentified supporter—features posts and comments from several people who self-identify as being Chinese expressing support for Liang. Yesterday, the page administrator posted the verdict with a message that said, “Officer #PeterLiang is convicted for the deaths of Mike Brown and Eric Garner. #Scapegoat.”
Liang’s sentencing hearing is scheduled for April 14. He could face between five and 15 years of prison time for his felony manslaughter charge. His attorneys filed a motion asking the judge to set aside the jury’s verdict.