Peter Liang won't see jail time as manslaughter charge reduced
Former New York Police Department (NYPD) Officer Peter Liang was spared jail time Tuesday for fatally shooting Akai Gurley in a Brooklyn housing project, a sentence that drew anger from Gurley's friends and family who packed the courtroom.
Following a recommendation that Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson made in March, Justice Danny Chun of the State Supreme Court in Brooklyn ordered Liang, 28, to serve five years probation and 800 hours of community service. Liang will also serve three years probation concurrently on misconduct charges.
Thompson had originally recommended five years probation along with six months of home confinement and 500 hours of community service.
Chun also reduced Liang's second-degree manslaughter charge to criminally negligent homicide. "I find that given the defendant's background, and given how remorseful he is that it would not be necessary to incarcerate the defendant to have a just sentence in this case," Chun said Tuesday.
Upon leaving the courtroom Tuesday, Hertencia Peterson, Gurley's aunt, said, "Akai's life does not matter. Black lives do not matter. But don't worry: justice will be served one way or another."
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On Nov. 20, 2014, Liang was beginning a vertical patrol with his partner, former NYPD Officer Shaun Landau, on the eighth floor of an unlit stairwell at the Louis H. Pink Houses in Brooklyn when, Liang testified, he was startled and accidentally fired a shot. The bullet ricocheted off a wall and struck 28-year-old Gurley, who had entered with his friend Melissa Butler from the floor below.
Prosecutors said Liang's actions were reckless and that he did not step in to perform CPR on Gurley, who lay dying on the fifth-floor landing. Liang's attorneys argued he was in a state of shock after the shooting and was inadequately trained in the life-saving procedure, an allegation raised at trial that resulted in the NYPD placing a police academy CPR instructor on modified duty last month.
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Thompson, in his March 23 statement, called the shooting unintentional and said putting Liang in prison was not necessary for protecting the public. A day after the announcement, Liang met with Gurley's domestic partner and mother of his child, Kimberly Ballinger, to apologize.