A New York jury found an officer guilty on Thursday for the 2014 shooting and death of Akai Gurley, an unarmed black man killed in the stairwell of a Brooklyn apartment building.
The Brooklyn Supreme Court found Officer Peter Liang guilty of manslaughter and official misconduct, for shooting, then failing to help Gurley after he lay dying. Liang had faced five counts in all, including assault, reckless endangerment, and criminal negligent homicide.
The trial went to jury Tuesday. At closing arguments, Liang’s lawyers asked the judge to declare a mistrial, saying the prosecution made an “inflammatory and inappropriate” argument when they said Liang intentionally shot Gurley.
“He chose to point his gun,” said the prosecutor, Joseph Alexis. “He chose to put his finger on the trigger, to fire the gun.”
“What happened here is a tragedy,” argued Rae Koshetz, one of Liang’s attorneys. “It’s a terrible tragedy, but it’s not a crime."
Liang shot Gurley, a 28-year-old father of two in a dark hallway of a public-housing building. The rookie officer and his parter were on a routine patrol of the Louis H. Pink Houses when they opened a door to the stairwell on the eighth floor. With the lights out, Liang unholstered his 9mm Glock handgun and held a flashlight. When he walked into the stairwell, Liang told jurors he heard a “quick” sound that startled him, “and the gun just went off after I tensed up.”