DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN, NY — Peter Liang, the rookie NYPD officer found guilty of manslaughter last month for fatally shooting young, unarmed black man Akai Gurley in a dark East New York stairwell in 2014, may never see the inside of a jail cell.
Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson recommended Wednesday that instead of prison time, 27-year-old Liang should serve “five years of probation, with the condition that he serves six months of home confinement with electric monitoring and performs 500 hours of community service.”
Thompson said there is no evidence Liang intended to kill or injure 28-year-old Gurley (as the former cop’s defense team argued repeatedly during the trial), and that “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.”
More from the DA:
“In sentencing a defendant, the facts of the crime and the particular characteristics of that person must be considered. Mr. Liang has no prior 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.”
The DA’s recommendation is directed at Justice Danny Chun, the Brooklyn judge who will be handing Liang his sentence on April 14.
When Liang was convicted for killing Gurley in February, his conviction was heralded as the first time in more than a decade that an NYPD officer had been found guilty of killing a citizen. In the last case on record, Officer Bryan Conroy was found guilty of “criminally negligent homicide” — one step down from manslaughter — for killing African immigrant Ousmane Zongo in a raid on a Manhattan warehouse.
Conroy served no jail time. And if Justice Chun takes the DA’s word to heart, neither will Liang.
Liang shot Gurley while conducting a “vertical patrol” of a darkened stairwell in the Louis Pink Houses, an affordable housing project in City Line (near East New York) on Nov. 20, 2014.
Gurley was reportedly in the stairwell with his friend, Pink Houses resident Melissa Butler, who he was visiting at the time. The officer’s bullet is said to have hit Gurley after ricocheting off the side of the stairwell.
A medical examiner’s report showed the bullet “[tore] through his body, fractured his third rib, nicked his sternum, and pierced both his heart and diaphragm,” according to Buzzfeed News.
Prosecutors with the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office did not claim Liang intentionally shot Gurley. Instead, they argued that the officer shouldn’t have had his finger on the trigger of his gun as he patrolled the Louis Pink Houses — and that he should have tried to help resuscitate Gurley, or at least call him an ambulance, as soon as he saw the young man was shot.
In addition to manslaughter, Liang was found guilty in February of ”official misconduct” for not helping Gurley as he died.
Liang plead “not guilty” to the charges. His attorneys argued that the shooting was accidental, and that he felt ill-equipped to assist Gurley as he lay dying.
In the weeks following the ex-officer’s conviction, the Chinese-American community in New York City — and around the U.S. — rallied in his support, threatening to run a counter-campaign against DA Thompson in the next election.