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NYPD officer found guilty in the fatal shooting of unarmed man

February 12, 2016  |  Posted by: JammedUp Staff
NYPD officer found guilty in the fatal shooting of unarmed man

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A rookie NYPD cop, who fired a fatal bullet that killed an unarmed man in a dark stairwell of a Brooklyn housing project was convicted of manslaughter on Thursday.

Peter Liang, who becomes the first officer found guilty of an on-duty shooting since 2005, now faces up to 15 years in prison for the death of Akai Gurley, 28, last year

NYPD officials immediately terminated Liang from the force after the Brooklyn jury returned a guilty verdict. .

Gurley died within minutes after he was struck in the heart by a bullet that bounced off a wall, fired from the officer’s gun in a darkened stairwell at the Louis Pink Houses in Brooklyn, New York.

The 28-year-old Liang leaned over and covered his face with his hands in anguish as the verdict was read out loud by the jury foreman. He will remain out on bail until his sentencing on April 14.

Liang testified in his defense during the trial, where he insisted the gun “just went off,” and admitted he didn’t express remorse immediately following Gurley’s death, despite sobbing on the stand as he described the moment he found the victim’s body.

The former officer said on the stand that he held his firearm with his finger on the side and not the trigger, when a loud sound rattled him, “I just turned around, and the gun went off.”

Prosecutors disputed Liang’s claims, arguing instead that the officer handled his weapon in a reckless manner and also pointed to the fact the he did almost nothing to help Gurley.

Liang said he saw no one when he first looked around with his flashlight and admitted he did not immediately report the shot.

Instead, he and his partner Shaun Landau argued over who would call their sergeant, fearing he could get fired.

Prosecutors granted Landau, faces internal disciplinary proceedings, immunity in exchange for his cooperation in the investigation and testimony against Liang.

Liang said he then heard cries after he went to look for the bullet, and discovered the fatally wounded Gurley and his distressed girlfriend.

Although Liang radioed for an ambulance, he did acknowledge not rendering aid to Gurley’s girlfriend in trying to revive the victim.

Liang said he thought it would be smarter to wait for a professional to provide medical assistance.

“I panicked, I was in shock and disbelief that I shot someone,” Liang said.

The girlfriend of Gurley, Melissa Butler, took the stand, where she emotionally testified trying to revive the young father of a 3-year-old daughter, while Liang and his partner, Shaun Landau, offered no aid to the mortally wounded victim.

“Justice was done,” Brooklyn District Attorney Kenneth Thompson said after the proceeding.

“An innocent man died because a police officer violated his training,” Thompson said.

Liang’s lawyers stated that they had difficulty understanding how the jury could find him guilty of a shooting that happened accidentally in a pitch-dark stairway.

“If that’s not a time to pull out your gun, then when is,” defense lawyer Robert Brown stated before adding that Liang would appeal the verdict.

Activists have used the prosecution of Liang’s as a counter measure to cases in which grand juries in other incidents of police shootings declined to indict officers such as the cases of Eric Garner in New York City and Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

Family members of other New Yorkers killed in police-related shootings joined Gurley’s family outside court during the trial and demanded police accountability.

“I just want to thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone,” Gurley’s mother, Sylvia Palmer, said after the officer’s conviction.

Meanwhile, Liang’s supporters have said he was scapegoated for past injustices.

And the head of Liang’s union, Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch, said the verdict “will have a chilling effect on police officers across the city because it criminalizes a tragic accident.”
Lynch wasn’t in court for the verdict. While New York police officers often fill rows of courtroom seats when one of their own faces charges, few officers appeared during Liang’s trial.

Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat, said he respected the jury’s decision and hoped it would bring Gurley’s family some sense of finality.

The last officer convicted in a killing in the line of duty was Brian Conroy, who was found guilty in 2005 of criminally negligent homicide in the shooting of Ousmane Zongo, an African immigrant, during a police raid.

Conroy was sentenced to probation and 500 hours of community service.

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