Akai Gurley death: Prosecutor recommends no prison time for police officer who shot unarmed black man

Chinese-American officer Peter Liang shot unarmed black man Akai Gurley in November and the prosecutor has recommended five years probation


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The Independent US

The district attorney office in Brooklyn said it will not seek a prison sentence for a police officer who shot an unarmed black man as the prosecutor said he is seeking “justice, not revenge”.

Peter Liang was convicted of second-degree murder after he fatally shot Akai Gurley in a New York housing project in November. 

Mr Liang and his officer partner were in a dark stairwell when Mr Liang's gun fired and the bullet hit 28-year-old Mr Gurley, who was visiting his girlfriend.

Mr Liang, who will face sentencing next month, could serve as much as 15 years in prison, as reported by The New York Times

Prosecutor Ken Thompson, however, is asking for Mr Liang to serve five years of probation, including six months of home confinement.

The defendant’s lawyers said Mr Thompson “deserves praise for his dispassionate and courageous decision that incarceration is not called for in this case”.

It is rare that a police officer has been convicted for killing a civilian.

Protesters claimed the 28-year-old Chinese-American police officer was being used as a “scapegoat” to show the police force is taking action over the countless cases of white police officers shooting black people, including the recent failure of a New York court to indict white officer Daniel Pantaleo for killing unarmed black man Eric Garner.

“Mr Liang has no prior criminal history and poses no future threat to public safety,” Mr Thompson said. “Because his incarceration is not necessary to protect the public, and due to the unique circumstances of this case, a prison sentence is not warranted.”

Mr Gurley’s family responded they were “outraged” at the “inadequate” sentencing recommendation.

“Officer Liang was convicted of manslaughter and should serve time in prison for his crime,” they said in a statement. “This sentencing recommendation sends the message that police officers who kill people should not face serious consequences.”

Johnetta Elzie, a founder of advocacy group Campaign Zero, affiliated with the Black Lives Matter movement, said: “Could you imagine a sentence or recommendation for a regular civilian? Or if Akai had shot and killed Peter? Skewed is not a strong enough word for what happened today.”

Prosecutor Mr Thompson was reportedly under pressure to present officer Liang’s actions as criminal, but his sentencing letter struck a less harsh note, although he did make a point to emphasize the “pain” felt by Mr Gurley’s family.