Trial Continues for NYPD Officer Charged With Killing Unarmed Man

By Sameer Rao Jan 27, 2016

Today (January 27) marks the third day in the trial of Peter Liang, an NYPD officer indicted on charges of manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide in the 2014 shooting death of Akai Gurley. 

The trial is playing out in the State Supreme Court in Brooklyn. The New York Times reports that both sides agreed on certain aspects of the case: that Liang and his partner were patrolling in Brooklyn’s Louis H. Pink houses on the night of November 20, 2014; that he fired his gun down a dark stairwell; and that his bullet hit and killed Gurley, an unarmed Black man walking with his partner, Melissa Butler.

Prosecutors from the Brooklyn district attorney’s office argued, through testimony from witnesses, that Liang had no need to draw his gun, acted recklessly in firing down the stairwell and was too busy being "worried only about himself" to perform CPR or any other life-saving measures after the shooting. The prosecution played the audio of the witness’ call to a 911 dispatcher, in which she said, "The cops shot him. The cops shot him," and "There’s like a million cops, but no ambulance."

Liang’s defense argued that the officer, on overtime after a nearby shooting, accidentally fired his gun and had it drawn because he and his partner were heading to the housing project’s roof, "the most dangerous place in a dangerous place." The defense further stated that Liang was shocked and beside himself after the shooting, to the point that he could barely communicate to a police radio dispatcher or to other officers who arrived on the scene later. Yahoo News reported that Liang’s defense team is made up of former NYPD officers and that he may testify in the trial. 

Officers who responded after the shooting testified yesterday, with one saying that Liang appeared "absent" in the aftermath of the incident.

The indictment of the Chinese-American officer, as reported by Colorlines last year, divided the city’s Chinese-American community. Some believed that he must be held accountable, while others saw Liang as a scapegoat given that White policemen around the country accused of similar crimes—including the NYPD officers involved in the killing of Eric Garner—are frequently not held accountable. 

(H/t The New York Times, Yahoo News, New York Magazine)