A former New York City police officer convicted in the accidental shooting death of an unarmed man in a darkened stairwell will not go to prison. Peter Liang was convicted in February of manslaughter in the fatal shooting of Akai Gurley at a public housing project. Gurley was walking down to the lobby and Liang was patrolling the inside of the building in 2014. Liang opened a door to the stairwell and fired his weapon once accidentally. The bullet ricocheted and struck Gurley.
On Tuesday, former New York police officer Peter Liang was sentenced to probation and community service -- but no jail time -- in the 2014 killing of Akai Gurley, an unarmed black man, in the stairwell of a Brooklyn housing project. This notably light sentence is a relief to some Asian Americans -- particularly Chinese Americans -- who leaped to Liang's defense from the start, arguing that the shooting was a tragic accident and that Liang's prosecution and conviction were proof of selective prosecution and racial scapegoating. But many progressive Asian Americans -- who called for Liang's conviction and rallied Asian Americans to stand in solidarity with black people against police violence -- are bitterly disappointed with Liang's sentence. This divide over the Liang trial reflects a much deeper political division within Asian American communities about whether to pursue an "Asian-first" strategy or a broader racial justice agenda. At the heart of that debate is a crucial topic that often gets swept under the rug, one the Liang trial will hopefully bring to the fore: the beneficial positioning of Asian Americans in the country's racial order.
On a Saturday in February, Chivy Ngo, who owns Mister Bo Ky restaurant in Brooklyn, took a rare three-hour lunch break, closed his restaurant and taped a sign to the door. "Will be at the rally for PETER LIANG reopen at 3 p.m." Ngo, a Chinese immigrant from Vietnam, rarely participates in politics. But that was before New York Police Officer Peter Liang fired his gun into a dark stairwell, and the ricocheting bullet struck and killed an unarmed black man. Liang, who grew up in New York's Chinatown as the son of Chinese immigrants, became the first New York City officer in more than a decade to be convicted in a shooting in the line of duty. For Ngo, the case stirred a sense of injustice he had never felt before.
A Brooklyn prosecutor on Wednesday asked that no jail time be given to former rookie cop Peter Liang, whose manslaughter conviction for shooting an unarmed black man was met with mass protests by Chinese Americans around the nation last month. Ken Thompson said Liang, who is Chinese American and the first New York Police Department officer convicted of an on-duty death since 2005, acted recklessly when he went into a Brooklyn housing project and fired a shot that ricocheted off the darkened stairwell walls before killing Akai Gurley several floors below in November 2014. "There is no evidence, however, that he intended to kill or injure Akai Gurley," Thompson said in a statement Wednesday. He recommended that Liang serve five years of probation with six months of home confinement, plus 500 hours of community service. "When Mr. Liang went into that building that night, he did so as part of his job and to keep the people of Brooklyn and our city safe," Thompson said, adding: "There are no winners here.
New York City will pay over 4 million to the family of Akai Gurley, the unarmed black man fatally shot in 2014 by then city police officer Peter Liang, according to reports Monday. Gurley's family had filed a wrongful death claim over his killing in a Brooklyn public housing project by the officer on patrol. While the city will pay 4.1 million in settlement, the New York City Housing Authority and Liang will pay an additional 400,000 and 25,000 respectively, Scott Rynecki, the lawyer for Gurley's partner Kimberly Ballinger and their daughter Akaila Gurley, said, according to the New York Times. The city finalized the settlement Monday afternoon. According to New York Daily News, the total amount will be put into a fund for 4-year-old Akaila.