Updates to our Terms of Use

We are updating our Terms of Use. Please carefully review the updated Terms before proceeding to our website.

Sunday, July 14, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Brooklyn DA Wants Leniency for Killer Cop

BROOKLYN (CN) - A New York City prosecutor has recommended probation for the rookie police officer convicted of manslaughter after accidentally killing an unarmed black man.

The recommendation Tuesday by Kings County District Attorney Ken Thompson says Peter Liang should serve only six months of house arrest and 500 hours of community service, followed by five years of probation, for the shooting death of 28-year-old Akai Gurley on Nov. 20, 2014.

Gurley had been in a stairwell of his East New York apartment building, the Pink Houses, while Liang and his partner, Shaun Landau, were working a floor-by-floor sweep of the housing project, what the New York City Police Department calls a vertical patrol.

On his way to inspect the rooftop, Liang heard a sound in the unlit stairwell and fired his gun. The bullet ricocheted off a wall and hit Gurley in the chest, killing him.

Though Liang called the shooting an accident, prosecutors made much of the fact that Liang had callously worried about losing his job as Gurley lay dying.

"I'm going to be fired," Liang had whined, when Landau told him to call in the shooting.

With Liang having failed to radio in the incident, check Gurley's pulse or perform CPR, a neighbor called 911, but help came too late for Gurley.

Amid protests over the failure to hold police accountable for the shootings of unarmed black men, Liang's supporters have decried his manslaughter conviction last month as scapegoating another minority. Liang is Chinese-American.

DA Thompson's sentencing recommendation calls the shooting accidental.

"There is no evidence," Thompson said, that Liang "intended to kill or injure Akai Gurley. When Mr. Liang went into that building that night, he did so as part of his job and to keep the people of Brooklyn and our city safe."

The DA noted that Liang has no previous criminal history and poses "no future threat to public safety."

"Because his incarceration is not necessary to protect the public, and due to the unique circumstances of this case, a prison sentence is not warranted," Thompson added.

"Justice will be best served" if Liang only gets a five-year sentence of probation, he added.

"As I have said before, there are no winners here," Thompson added. "But the sentence that I have requested is just and fair under the circumstances of this case.

"From the beginning, this case has always been about justice and not about revenge."

Gurley's family issued a statement expressing outrage over the decision.

"This sentencing recommendation sends the message that police officers who kill people should not face serious consequences," his family said in a statement. "It is the ongoing pattern of a severe lack of accountability for officers that unjustly kill and brutalize New Yorkers that allows the violence to continue."

The family continued to lambaste Thompson, the borough's first black DA, claiming that his campaign promises to win office were bogus.

"His sentencing recommendation is a betrayal of that promise and sends the message that officers can continue to kill black New Yorkers without consequence," the statement continues.

With Liang set for sentencing next month, Gurley's family says they hope the judge "will take seriously the crimes for which Peter Liang was convicted, and appropriately sentence Liang to serve time in prison."

"We need DA Thompson to show us that he is a man of his word and that police officers are not above the law," the family said in the statement.

Gurley's girlfriend filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against the police department last month on the heels of Liang's conviction.

Categories / Uncategorized

Subscribe to Closing Arguments

Sign up for new weekly newsletter Closing Arguments to get the latest about ongoing trials, major litigation and hot cases and rulings in courthouses around the U.S. and the world.