Peter Liang Terminated From NYPD Following Manslaughter Conviction In Death Of Akai Gurley
NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) -- Jurors reached a guilty verdict in the trial of a rookie NYPD officer who fatally shot an unarmed man in a dark public housing stairwell in Brooklyn nearly two years ago.
Peter Liang, was found guilty of manslaughter and official misconduct in the death of Akai Gurley.
Upon being convicted of a felony, Liang was automatically terminated from the NYPD.
As CBS2's Lou Young reported, Liang dropped his head at the news that his fatal mistake was in fact a crime.
"People from all walks of life came together here in Brooklyn to affirm that Akai Gurley's life mattered, young and old, from Williamsburg, from Crown Heights. An innocent man lost his life and a young New York City police officer now stands convicted of manslaughter. There are no winners here, but justice was done," Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson said.
Thompson whispered into Gurley's mother's ear after the verdict was read.
"I told his mother 'I'm sorry. I'm sorry that were in that courtroom,'" he said, "Because there are no winners."
Gurley's family, who attended the trial every day, hugged and cried outside of the courthouse.
"I just want to say thank you, thank you to everyone for all your support," Gurley's mother Sylvia Palmer said.
"We're not rejoicing, but it's about being accountable for an innocent life that was taken," his aunt Hertencia Petersen said.
One juror spoke briefly as he exited the courtroom.
"I have family who are police and it was a very tough decision," he said.
Following the verdict, PBA President Pat Lynch said the decision would criminalize an accident.
"We are very disappointed in the verdict and believe that the jury came to an absolutely wrong decision. This was a terrible and tragic accident and not a crime. this bad verdict will have a chilling effect on police officers across the city because it criminalizes a tragic accident," he said.
Thompson said the case was about holding an officer accountable for recklessness. He bristled at any suggestion that it was part of a larger anti-police movement.
"There's no message here. This has nothing to do with Ferguson, or Staten Island, or Baltimore, or Cleveland, or any other place he said. This is about who we are in Brooklyn and what we stand for," he said.
Liang said he accidentally fired his drawn weapon after being startled by a noise while patrolling a pitch black stairwell at the Pink Houses in East New York on Nov. 20, 2014.
The shot ricocheted off a wall and hit Gurley, who had decided to take the stairs with his girlfriend instead of waiting for an elevator.
Prosecutors said Liang was reckless and did little to help the dying victim.
Wednesday was the first full day of deliberations.
Jurors asked to rehear testimony from Liang and other witnesses. They also handled Liang's unloaded weapon in the courtroom, pulling the trigger to gauge how much pressure it takes to fire, WCBS 880's Irene Cornell reported.
Liang said his finger was never on the trigger, but prosecutors dispute that saying pressure must be applied for the bullet to discharge, 1010 WINS' Juliet Papa reported.
Jurors were considering five criminal charges against Liang, which also include criminally negligent homicide, assault, reckless endangerment and official misconduct counts.
Liang left the courthouse with his family. His legal team appeared stricken by the total defeat.
"We don't believe that the verdict was supported by the facts or the law. We plan on moving post-verdict in order to dismiss, and if that fails we plan to appeal," attorney Robert Brown said.
Liang faces up to 15 years in prison.
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