BROOKLYN (CN) - Jury selection begins Thursday for the trial of a rookie New York City police officer accused of gunning down an unarmed black man in the dimly lit stairwell of a housing project 14 months ago.
Peter Liang, 28, is accused of killing Akai Gurley, also 28, in the notorious "Pink Houses" in the rough-and-tumble Brooklyn neighborhood of East New York in November 2014.
Opening arguments in his criminal trial get underway Monday.
Liang and his partner Shaun Landau were working a routine "vertical" patrol assignment of the building when the rookie officer came upon Gurley in the dimly lighted stairway and opened fire, killing the unarmed father after a bullet from his gun ricocheted off a concrete wall and struck Gurley in the chest.
After the incident, prosecutors say Liang turned to his partner and said, "I'm going to be fired."
The two then dragged their feet on what to do next rather than offer the dying man assistance, officials say.
Landau is not being accused of any crime, but is expected to testify against the former officer, according to published reports.
Jury selection will be overseen by Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Danny Chun.
Liang, who has claimed the shooting was accidental, is currently expected to testify in his own defense, although he still has the option of not doing so.
He pleaded not guilty to the charges of manslaughter, reckless endangerment, and official misconduct that were filed against him for the incident.
Liang was released on his own recognizance against a backdrop of outrage and protests over the police use of force against minorities, that resulted in deaths in Ferguson, Mo. and Baltimore.
The shooting occurred just days before a grand jury declined to indict a white police officer for killing teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, and weeks before a separate grand jury brought no charges against a white New York officer for the chokehold death of Eric Garner.
A month after the death of Akai Gurley, in December 2014, NYPD officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu were executed while they sat in their police cruiser on a Brooklyn street. Their killer, Ismaaiyl Brinsley, later killed himself.
Gurley's family filed a wrongful death suit against Liang and the NYPD last May in Brooklyn Supreme Court.
His family is represented by attorney Scott Rynecki with Rubenstein & Rynecki.
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