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Monday, July 15, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

NYPD Officer Convicted of Manslaughter

BROOKLYN (CN) - A jury found New York City police officer Peter Liang guilty of manslaughter on Thursday night for fatally shooting Akai Gurley, an unarmed father whose death became a symbol of police brutality here.

Gurley's family released a statement late Friday morning, saying they have come "one step closer in getting justice for Akai."

"Nobody deserved to die like Akai did, and no verdict in this world can heal our heartache or pain in losing Akai," the family said.

Gurley's death on Nov. 20, 2014, triggered a groundswell of protests in the city amid the similarly timed announcements that grand juries in Ferguson, Mo., and Staten Island, N.Y., had refused to indict police officers who killed unarmed black men.

The shooting occurred in a stairwell of East Harlem's Louis H. Pink Houses where Liang and his partner Shaun Landau were on a routine patrol.

When the officers took the elevator to the top floor to inspect the rooftop, Liang entered the eighth-floor landing with a gun in one hand and a flashlight in the other.

Liang said that he heard a sound three stories below him when he accidentally fired. The bullet ricocheted off the wall, and tore into Gurley's heart and liver.

Prosecutors said the rookie cop broke regulations by taking his gun out to begin with and callously worried about losing his job when he could have spent time saving his victim's life.

Liang insists that he did not initially know he hit anybody, but he acknowledged that he did not radio in the incident, check Gurley's pulse or perform CPR once he did learn.

Help came only after Gurley's friend Melissa Butler asked a neighbor to call 911, in a harrowing recording played for the jury early in the trial.

A 12-person jury, eight of whom were white, with three Latinos and one black person, reached a verdict after a little more than a day after deliberations.

CAAAV, an advocacy group whose name is short for Committee Against Anti-Asian Violence, has been a steady fixture at trial, supporting the Gurley family.

Breaking with many in their community by rebuking Liang, CAAV has emphasized that the problems of police brutality do not end with one Chinese officer.

"Though he was found guilty, the Akai Gurley's family will never be able to see, feel, touch or talk to Akai again," the group said in a Facebook post after the ruling. "We stand behind the Gurley family and all families fighting to end impunity of all police officers who unjustly take the lives of members of our families."

With a protest planned for Friday evening, the family demanded that the NYPD fire Liang's partner Landau without pay and pension.

"There are many more police officers who need to be held accountable, and we hope this case will send a message to all NYPD officers and police departments around the country and around the world that they can't kill and get away with it anymore," the family said Friday morning. "Peter Liang's partner Officer Shaun Landau should not have been given immunity also should be fired for letting Akai lay there to die."

Mere hours after this statement, the NYPD confirmed that it fired Landau.

The NYPD should also end their controversial "vertical patrol" program that brought police to the Pink Houses on the day of the shooting, and the city should redirect the money for 1,400 new police officers to pay for houses and community centers, the family said.

They will demonstrate outside 1 Police Plaza today at 5 p.m.

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