In a shocking turn of events, a New York City police officer who killed an unarmed black man was actually found guilty of manslaughter and police misconduct.
Peter Liang, a rookie NYPD officer, was accused of firing his gun down a dark stairwell in a Brooklyn housing project towards... something that “startled” him. That “something” turned out to be a person, Akai Gurley, a black man who lived there.
Liang then allegedly fretted about his career — allegedly saying “I’m going to get fired” — instead of rendering aid, leaving Gurley’s hysterical girlfriend to desperately perform CPR. Gurley died at the scene.
At trial, Liang’s only defenses were that sometimes people commit crime in that building, and his gun “just went off.” Liang actually took the stand to say that. From the Daily News:
Liang, who cried on the stand, testified that his finger was on the side of his drawn pistol as he entered the stairwell.
“I heard something on my left side...It startled me (then) the gun just went off,” Liang testified during the trial.
I don’t know... maybe the gun was racist?
Liang and his partner were conducting a “vertical patrol” of the building: that’s when the officers check the stairwells and the roof. Officers have stated that it’s irregular for an officer to conduct such a patrol with their guns drawn. Remember, Liang wasn’t looking for an active shooter or anything. He wasn’t advancing on a terrorist stronghold. He wasn’t playing a Crucible match in Destiny. He was patrolling a building where black people live, shot one of them who had the temerity to walk down his own stairwell, and evidently expected to get away with it.
I say “expected” to get away with it because there was a full freaking two week trial. You would expect that a killer whose only defense was “the gun just went off” would be looking to take a plea of some kind. But in this environment, where cop after black-man-killing-cop has evaded mere prosecution, much less conviction, I suppose Liang thought he had a decent chance of an acquittal.
And really, I think he might have been acquitted if his behavior after shooting the man to death hadn’t been so despicable:
Liang said he initially thought he’d accidentally fired his weapon but not struck anyone. He and [his partner] bickered over who should report the screw-up, and Liang eventually called his sergeant’s cellphone - instead of reporting it over the radio, which is recorded.
Liang realized the magnitude of his mistake when he saw [Gurley’s friend, Melissa Butler] desperately trying to save Gurley’s life.
“I was panicking. I was shocked,” Liang testified.
The two cops said they weren’t confident in their training administering CPR - so they let Butler administer it instead.
“I didn’t know if I could do it better than her,” Liang said.
Ladies and Gentleman, your NYPD.
The Daily News reports that Liang is the first New York City police officer convicted of a fatal shooting since 2005.
Let’s hope we don’t have to wait another decade for the next one... because we certainly won’t get through 10 years or even 10 months before NYPD kills another unarmed man.