Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Peter Liang Sentencing: Measured Justice or a Lack of It?

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Peter Liang Sentencing: Measured Justice or a Lack of It?

Article excerpt

The former New York City police officer responsible for shooting an unarmed man in the stairwell of a public housing building avoided a prison sentence in court Tuesday.

Peter Liang was convicted by jury of criminally negligent homicide for the 2014 shooting death of Akai Gurley. Mr. Liang's conviction was downgraded from manslaughter after Brooklyn state Supreme Court Justice Danny Chun ruled that prosecutors failed to meet the burden of proof for that charge.

Justice Chun sentenced Mr. Liang to five years of probation and 800 community-service hours, a punishment Mr. Gurley's family views as too lenient.

"There's no justice. Akai Gurley's life does not matter. Black lives do not matter," Gurley's aunt, Hertensia Petersen, told The Associated Press.

Liang's shooting of Gurley contributed to the ongoing national debate regarding the use of excessive force by law enforcement against unarmed minorities. Liang, a Chinese-American, was not accused of deliberately killing Gurley, who was black, in contrast to other cases such as the Michael Brown or Eric Garner killings which resulted in grand juries declining to indict the officers involved.

Gurley's death occurred while Liang was patrolling a darkened stairwell in a Brooklyn public housing building in November, 2014. Liang, a rookie officer at the time, fired a shot in the dark after he claims he was startled by a noise. The bullet ricocheted and strcuk Gurley, who was one floor below.

Liang says he did not know he had shot someone until he found Melissa Butler, Gurley's girlfriend, attempting to revive him. Liang apologized to members of Gurely's family during the trial.

"My life is forever changed," he said. "I hope you give me a chance to rebuild it."

Ms. Butler, and Gurley's domestic partner Kim Ballinger, spoke out on their loss in court, according to AP reports.

"When you stole Akai's life, you stole mine as well," Butler told Liang.

"Because of the recklessness of that night, I'm without my partner, our daughter is without her father, a mom is without her son," Ms. …

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