Former New York Police Officer Peter Liang was not sentenced to serve any prison time for fatally shooting unarmed Akai Gurley accidentally in an unlit Brooklyn housing project stairwell two years ago. Instead, Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Danny Chun gave him five years of probation and 800 hours of community service as it was declared that the act was unintentional.
"Liang said a loud noise surprised him and his gun accidentally fired." Mr. Gurley was killed by a ricochet bullet form Mr. Liang's gun while Liang was on patrol with his partner. "In February, a jury convicted him of manslaughter and official misconduct, rejecting his testimony that the gun had simply gone off in his hand and finding that he had failed to help Mr. Gurley as he lay dying on a fifth-floor landing." Liang and his partner were unaware anyone had been shot as they reported the discharge of the gun to their superior. Neither of the officers knew CPR when they discovered the injured Mr. Gurley.
The shooting was ruled an accident and the judge reduced the jury's verdict of manslaughter to a less severe criminally negligent homicide charge. Initially, Liang had been facing 15 years in prison. This case is politically influenced as it took place in Brooklyn where there are concerns over police accountability, specifically in black neighborhoods. Mr. Gurley was of African American descent. "It is rare for police officers even to be charged and brought to court in shooting cases." "Liang was the first NYPD officer in more than a decade convicted of an on-duty killing. Critics of the verdict said Liang had been offered up as an Asian scapegoat while for years white officers had done worse and gotten away with it." Outside of court, black protesters supported the Gurley family while Chinese protestors supported Liang.
Akai Gurley's family was severely distraught over the verdict claiming, “There is no justice! Akai Gurley’s life didn’t matter!” However, Mr. Liang did apologize to the victim's loved ones saying, “The shot was accidental....My life has forever changed.”
Mr. Thompson, Brooklyn's first black district attorney, who "vowed to owed to bring a heightened sense of social justice to the borough’s communities of color," "issued a letter recommending that Mr. Liang should not serve time in prison. The letter referred to Mr. Gurley as “a completely innocent man who lost his life for no reason,” but also said Mr. Liang had no prior criminal history and posed no threat to public safety."
Based on what I have read so far, I think that Liang's sentence was just. Police officers risk their lives on the job and will need to react when their lives are in danger. He did not intentionally kill Mr. Gurley and is still being punished. Moreover, he lost his job and the event changed his entire life.
Do you support Liang's sentence for fatally injuring Mr. Gurley? If not, what would you change?
Do you think that police officers should be more severely punished for accidental killings while on duty?