'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,' District Attorney Ken Thompson said

By Greg Hanlon
Updated February 12, 2016 11:50 AM
Credit: Mary Altaffer/AP

Peter Liang, the police officer who fatally shot an innocent and unarmed black man in a New York City public housing stairwell in 2014, was found guilty Thursday of second degree manslaughter and official misconduct.

Liang and his partner were conducting a so-called vertical patrol in the Louis H. Pink Houses in East New York, Brooklyn, when Liang pulled out his service revolver and pushed open a door leading to a darkened stairwell, according to a press release by Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson.

After hearing a sound, Liang fired his gun once. The bullet ricocheted off a wall and struck Akai Gurley, 28, in the chest. Gurley had been walking with his girlfriend and had just entered the stairwell.

Liang’s lawyers had argued that his gun accidentally discharged. But in the press release, Thompson says: “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.”

The press release states that Liang violated guidelines because after he drew his weapon, he failed to place his finger outside the trigger guard and point his gun in a safe direction.

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Liang was convicted of official misconduct for failing to immediately report the incident: According ot the press release, while Gurley’s girlfriend performed CPR on him and a neighbor called 911, Liang “argued with his partner about who would radio in the incident and later failed to render any medical aid.”

CNN reports that Assistant District Attorney Marc Fliedner told jurors during the trial, “In fact, instead of calling for help, he just stood there and whined and moaned about how he would get fired.”

Liang was about 18 months out of the police academy at the time of the shooting. As the verdict was read, Liang buried his head in his hands.

Patrick Lynch, President of the Patrolman’s Benevolent Association, said in a statement: “We are very disappointed in the verdict and believe that the jury came to an absolutely wrong decision. This was a terrible and tragic accident and not a crime. This bad verdict will have a chilling effect on police officers across the city because it criminalizes a tragic accident.”

The manslaughter charge carries up to 15 years in prison, ABC News reports. Sentencing will take place April 14.