First NYPD Policeman Convicted Of Manslaughter In The Last Decade

First NYPD Policeman Convicted Of Manslaughter In The Last Decade
Photo Credit: Reuters/達志影像

What you need to know

In most of the debated police shooting cases in the US, the police are mostly white and the victims African Americans. However, here is a case in which the policeman is Chinese American. Peter Liang is the first NYPD police convicted for shooting a citizen in the last ten years, and nationwide debates regarding ethnicity, race and equality have risen.

Compiled by Shin-wei Chang

On November 20, 2014, Peter Liang, a 27 year-old Chinese-American, had joined the New York Police Department (NYPD) for less than 18 months. On February 12, 2016, Liang became the first NYPD policeman convicted for shooting a citizen in the last ten years.

Nearly two years ago, Liang was on patrol and reached a dim stairwell when someone slammed the metal door. The rookie police officer was so startled he fired his gun towards the dark. The bullet killed Akai Gurley, a 28-year-old African-American man.

NBC News reports, after the incident, New York Police Commissioner William Bratton held a press conference, saying that the firing “appears to be an accidental discharge, no intention to strike anybody at this time.” However, Liang was accused of second-degree manslaughter (reckless manslaughter), and found guilty by the jurors on February 12, 2016.

Debates have been raised about whether Liang should be indicted or not. Some say Liang is only a scapegoat to compensate other police shooting incidents, in which African-American citizens were mostly the victims. Critiques suspect that if Liang were white, he would not even have been indicted.

But, also a Chinese American, New York City Council Member Margaret Chin expressed her support of the legal system. Chin says race “does not matter,” and what’s important is everyone has to be equally treated.

New York Post reports, Liang testified on the stand that it was an accidental fire, but Assistant District Attorney Joseph Alexis still believes he did it on purpose. After each of the jurors tried pulling the trigger of Liang’s weapon, the jurors did not believe how the gun “just went off” as Liang said, and thus convicted him of manslaughter.

However, lawyer Rae Koshetz objected the jurors trying Liang’s gun, saying that the jurors do not have the expertise to clarify the truth from a single try. Moreover, the situation the jurors and Liang faced was different.

Though Liang is facing up to 15 years of jail, his lawyers can still file a motion to reverse the conviction before March 9, 2016.

Edited by Olivia Yang

‘Murderer’: NYPD Officer Peter Liang Heckled at Latest Hearing (NBC News)
Race ‘Doesn’t Matter’: Reactions to Officer Liang’s Indictment (NBC News)
Why jury believed NYPD cop was lying about stairwell shooting (New York Post)
Liang’s appeal to focus on jurors handling his gun (New York Post)
NYPD Officer Peter Liang found guilty of manslaughter in fatal shooting of Akai Gurley in Brooklyn housing development (New York Daily News)