NYPD Officer Found Guilty For Fatally Shooting Unarmed Akai Gurley

Above Photo: New York City Police officer (NYPD) Peter Liang © Stephanie Keith / Reuters

New York Police Department Officer Peter Liang was found guilty on charges related to the death of Akai Gurley. Liang was patrolling a housing complex when he claims he accidentally fired his gun, killing Gurley. He now faces up to 15 years in prison.

Liang was found guilty of second-degree manslaughter and official misconduct. His sentencing is set for April 14.

According to the New York Daily News, each of the 12 jury members took turns pulling the trigger of the gun that shot Gurley. Liang’s attorneys attempted to have a mistrial declared due to “inflammatory remarks” made during the prosecution’s closing argument, which implied that Liang had shot Gurley intentionally. However, a judge denied the bid.

For its part, the defense argued the incident should be viewed as a tragedy, but not a crime. In November of 2014, Officer Liang – a rookie police officer – was on his second “vertical patrol” of the Pink Houses, a public housing project in East New York, Brooklyn. While patrolling the staircase with his gun drawn, the officer claims that a noise surprised him and he accidentally fired. The bullet ricocheted and hit Akai Gurley, who WABC-TV reports was taking the stairs with his girlfriend to avoid waiting for the elevator. The Daily News reported that a high-ranking police source said Liang’s tendency to have his gun drawn was “bad tactics.”

Liang’s behavior after the shooting has also had an impact on the case. He testified on Monday that, after firing his weapon, he checked the stairwell with his flashlight, but saw no one, admitting that he didn’t report firing his pistol. He did not find Gurley until after arguing with his partner about which one would phone their sergeant to report the weapon’s discharge. When Liang went back into the stairwell to retrieve the bullet, he found Gurley and his girlfriend, Melissa Butler.

Butler testified that she and Gurley heard the shot and ran until Gurley collapsed, after which she attempted to perform CPR on the victim, the New York Post reported. Liang did not assist Butler or attempt to resuscitate Gurley in any way, however, claiming that it would be better to wait for professional aid.

The jury requested a copy of the NYPD’s patrol guide during deliberations, WABC-TV reported.