NYPD Officer Convicted of Manslaughter in Death of Akai Gurley

Peter Liang, 28, could face up to 15 years in prison.

February 11, 2016, 8:52 PM

— -- A New York City police officer was convicted of second-degree manslaughter in the shooting death of Akai Gurley, an unarmed man who police commissioner Bill Bratton said "just happened" to be in the dark stairwell when the officer fired his gun.

The officer, Peter Liang, was convicted in Brooklyn Thursday. He was 18 months out of the police academy when he shot and killed Gurley in a dimly lit staircase in a public housing project in Brooklyn in November 2014.

Prosecutors described Gurley as a "total innocent" in a press release following the conviction, calling Liang's actions "reckless."

"This defendant ignored official training that he received as a police officer – specifically never to put his finger on the trigger of his gun unless he was ready to shoot and his reckless actions cost Akai Gurley his life – a life that Peter Liang had sworn to protect," District Attorney Ken Thompson said.

Liang faces a maximum sentence of five to 15 years in prison. His sentencing hearing will take place April 14.

According to trial testimony, Liang and his partner were patrolling the housing complex in East New York, Brooklyn the night of Nov. 20, 2014 when Liang fired his revolver once. into a darkened stairwell. The bullet ricocheted off a wall and struck Gurley in the chest as he entered the stairwell on the floor below.

Prosecutors established that Liang was not under any threat that should have caused him to place his finger on the trigger of his gun and fire it, the press release states.

Gurley's friend and a neighbor tried to save him by performing CPR. Liang failed to immediately report the shooting, the release states. Witness testimony said Liang "did nothing" to help the victim.

The police union said the jury came to the "absolutely wrong decision," the AP said.