Asian-American Coalition Issues Powerful Statement About Peter Liang’s Sentence of Community Service

By Kenrya Rankin Apr 20, 2016

Just days after being denied a new trial, former New York Police Department Officer Peter Liang learned that he will not serve any days in jail for killing Akai Gurley, an unarmed Black man.

Yesterday (April 19), Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Danny Chun sentenced Liang, who is Chinese-American, to five years of probation and 800 hours of community service. The sentence was similar to the one recommended by the district attorney. A jury convicted Liang of second-degree manslaughter, second-degree assault, second-degree reckless endangerment, criminally negligent homicide and official misconduct for shooting and failing to assist Gurley. But the New York Post reports that at the sentencing hearing, Chun dropped the manslaughter charge, which reduced the maximum possible sentence from 15 years to just 4.

“[There is] no evidence, either direct or circumstantial, that the defendant was aware of Akai Gurley’s presence and therefore disregarded any risk [to him],’’ Chun said. The Atlantic reports that he continued on to say, “I find that given the defendant’s background, and given how remorseful he is that it would not be necessary to incarcerate the defendant to have a just sentence in this case.”

On November 20, 2014, Liang was patrolling the Louis H. Pink Houses in Brooklyn, New York, with his weapon drawn. He fired a shot—he testified that it was accidental—into a dark stairwell and the bullet ricocheted and struck Gurley, 28. A witness told the court that he did not attempt to resuscitate Gurley.

Liang’s conviction prompted thousands of Asian Americans to protest, saying that he was being scapegoated by a police department that is disconnected from people of color.

But several Asian advocacy groups immediately denounced the sentencing. A coalition posted a statement via Facebook, which appears below, in full:

Official Joint Statement from Asian/Chinese American Organizations on the Sentencing of Former NYPD Officer Peter Liang in the Killing of Akai Gurley

Asian Americans United, Philadelphia
CAAAV Organizing Asian Communities, New York City
Chinatown Community for Equitable Development (CCED), Los Angeles
Chinese Progressive Association, San Francisco
Chinese Progressive Association, Boston

We are outraged that Peter Liang has escaped accountability for killing Akai Gurley. For more than a year, Akai Gurley’s family has been courageously speaking out to demand justice for their loved one. Judge Chun’s sentencing decision today is an insult to Akai Gurley, his family and all victims of police violence. Any amount of jail/prison time is a brief snippet of time compared to the lifetime Akai Gurley’s young daughters will have to live without their father. The sentencing sends the message that it is okay to kill innocent and precious lives, as long as it is done by a police officer.

Akai Gurley was only 28-years old when he was struck and killed by the bullet fired by Peter Liang who failed to provide necessary medical help or call the ambulance. Akai’s aunt, Hertencia Petersen, remembers Akai as a good son and nephew, who joked and smiled a lot. He provided for his younger brothers and sisters and took care of Akaila and Kamiya, his daughters. Since the killing of Akai, his family has been suffering and mourning for their loss, as well as standing strongly together with the community to demand justice.

While the Chinese media and some Chinese leaders stood behind former Officer Peter Liang, as grassroots organizations working with Asian/Chinese Americans, we continue to stand with the family of Akai Gurley and other innocent victims of police killings to hold all police officers accountable, regardless of race. We continue to affirm that if we believe in true racial justice, we cannot excuse an officer for killing an innocent unarmed Black man because Peter Liang is Chinese or Asian like us. We know that the strength of our power is fully realized when we stand together with those who also face injustice. We cannot forget when other communities of color stood with us against the police killing of Yong Xin Huang in 1995 and other incidents of police brutality and countless critical moments our communities were also hurt. We have a responsibility to protect our prosperity by protecting ALL families and that means also the family of Akai Gurley who has lost their loved one forever.

We can tip the scales to fit our needs, but it doesn’t mean we’ve reached justice. Our hunger for true justice, for a world where we all have a chance to thrive and grow old must be realized. We showed everyone and ourselves the political power we are capable of. We must challenge the abuse of power where it is most evident—where families are losing loved ones with no accountability of the officers who kill them. Nothing will bring Akai back, but we must hold all police officers accountable to continue to fight for violence-free communities and win change in our systems and institutions.