New York — NYPD Rookie Officer Peter Liang, who shot and killed, unarmed 28-year-old Akai Gurley in the NYCHA-run Pink Houses stairwell in 2014, was found guilty of manslaughter and official misconduct on Thursday.
As the verdict was read, Liang dropped his head — his hands around the back of his neck — as one of his attorneys comforted him.
The highly unusual conviction of a police officer for the shooting death of a civilian means the rookie cop is automatically fired from the force and ulike other officers who were allowed to retire, loses his pension.
Kimberly Ballinger, the partner of the victim, Akai Gurley, 28, dabbed tears and later pumped her fist in the air.
“I want to thank God. The D.A. was a man of his word,” said Kimberly Ballinger, the mother of Gurley’s daughter. “And I thank the jurors so much.””
“We’re not rejoicing,” Gurley’s aunt Hortencia Peterson told the Daily News. “But it’s about being accountable. It’s about a girl who will never know her father.”
According to the New York Daily News, each of the 12 jury members took turns pulling the trigger of the gun that shot Gurley. Liang’s attorneys attempted to have a mistrial declared due to “inflammatory remarks” made during the prosecution’s closing argument, which implied that Liang had shot Gurley intentionally. However, a judge denied the bid.
For its part, the defense argued the incident should be viewed as a tragedy, but not a crime.
In November of 2014, Officer Liang – a rookie police officer – was on his second “vertical patrol” of the East New York, Brooklyn, public housing project. While patrolling the staircase with his gun drawn, the officer claims that a noise surprised him and he accidentally fired. The bullet ricocheted and hit Akai Gurley, who WABC-TV reports was taking the stairs with his girlfriend to avoid waiting for the elevator.
Liang’s behavior after the shooting has also had an impact on the case. He testified on Monday that, after firing his weapon, he checked the stairwell with his flashlight, but saw no one, admitting that he didn’t report firing his pistol. He did not find Gurley until after arguing with his partner about which one would phone their sergeant to report the weapon’s discharge. When Liang went back into the stairwell to retrieve the bullet, he found Gurley and his girlfriend, Melissa Butler.
Butler testified that she and Gurley heard the shot and ran until Gurley collapsed, after which she attempted to perform CPR on the victim. Liang did not assist Butler or attempt to resuscitate Gurley in any way, however, claiming that it would be better to wait for professional aid.
The seven men and five women jury requested a copy of the NYPD’s patrol guide during deliberations, WABC-TV reported.