Rookie Cop's Defense Attorney Calls Akai Gurley Shooting a 'Tragedy, Not a Crime'

Illustration for article titled Rookie Cop's Defense Attorney Calls Akai Gurley Shooting a 'Tragedy, Not a Crime'

In Brooklyn, a jury has begun deliberation in the trial of police officer Peter Liang, who fatally shot unarmed Akai Gurley in a housing project stairwell in 2014.


Two years ago, Liang was patrolling a stairwell in Brooklyn’s Pink house projects with his gun drawn when he says he heard a noise and let off a shot. His bullet ricocheted off a wall and hit Gurley in the heart and liver.

“I just turned and the gun went off — It happened so quickly, it was a split second,” he told the jury. “I thought the bullet just went off, hit the wall and that was it.”

Liang is charged with manslaughter and official misconduct. From CBS News:

“It’s not true that this was a one in a million shot,” Assistant District Attorney Joe Alexis said. “Peter Liang fired a shot right at where Akai Gurley stood because he heard a sound on the seventh floor. An innocent man is dead because he heard a sound, a sound he can’t even describe.”

On Monday, Liang testified that he didn’t initially know someone was shot and spent the first moments arguing with his partner over whether to call in the loose fire because he was scared to lose his job. Later, when he began looking for the bullet with his flashlight, he heard Gurley’s girlfriend Melissa Butler crying and saw the bloody body.

As Butler tried to administer CPR on her boyfriend, Liang didn’t help. He called for an ambulance, he says, because “he thought it would be better to wait for professional aid.” Gurley’s mother had choice words for his response outside of the court room this week.

“He did not call 911 for help, he did not perform CPR, he did nothing at all to try and save Akai’s life that night,” Gurley’s mother Sylvia Palmer said. “Peter Liang, Akai’s death was no accident. You murdered my son.”


Liang said he drew his gun in the Pink house project stairwell because it’s a “high-crime area.” But the prosecutor felt his drawn weapon was more a response to class than real danger. From the Daily News:

“Not everyone has the luxury of living a doorman building, the defendant would have you believe the Pink Houses is full of criminals,” Alexis said.


Defense attorney Robert Brown argued that patrolling the stairwell with a gun was “unofficial standard operating procedure,” and that Liang hadn’t been trained to perform CPR. If convicted, Liang faces up to 15 years in prison.

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Image via AP.



Firing at noises into the dark is not “standard operating procedure” and neither is arguing about how to cover it up instead of saving the innocent man you shot.