Up date: 2/11/2015 15:00 EDT
A New York City police officer was arraigned Wednesday afternoon in State Supreme Court in Brooklyn on several felony charges, including second-degree manslaughter in the fatal shooting of an unarmed man in an East New York housing project.
The officer, Peter Liang, appeared in a suit and tie and stood silently as a prosecutor read the charges against him in the death of the man, Akai Gurley: the top charge of manslaughter as well as criminally negligent homicide and second-degree assault, both felonies, and misdemeanor charges of reckless endangerment and two counts of official misconduct. [..]
He pleaded not guilty before Justice Daniel Chun of Brooklyn and was released on his own recognizance.
It has been reported that a New York City police officer has been indicted in the shooting a young black man in a Brooklyn housing project stairwell on November 20 of last year. According to three sources close to the grand jury proceeding, rookie Police Officer Peter Liang, 27 will be charged in the death of 28-year-old Akai Gurley inside the darkened stairwell of the Pink Houses in East New York, Brooklyn. There was no comment from the office of Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson. An official statement on the charges is expected Wednesday.
On the night of Nov. 20, Gurley and his girlfriend, 28-year-old Melissa Butler, left Butler’s seventh-floor apartment inside the Louis Pink housing projects. The pair tried to take the elevator but it wasn’t working, so they entered the building’s stairwell.
The building’s superintendent had requested that the New York City Housing Authority fix the lights in the stairwell months earlier, but when Gurley and Butler entered, it was still dark.
Just as they entered stairwell, two first-year police officers — Liang and his partner, Shaun Landau — entered from the eighth floor. The two cops were conducting a “vertical patrol,” in which officers walk the stairs of public housing buildings in order to prevent crime.
According to multiple reports, Liang was carrying his gun in one hand and a flashlight in another, when he opened the door to the stairwell. At that moment, a bullet was fired from Liang’s gun, striking Gurley in the chest. Gurley managed to get down two flights of stairs before collapsing on the fifth floor, where a neighbor called 911 and Butler tried to administer first aid.
Gurley — a father of a 2-year-old daughter, and who had been planning on surprising his mother in Florida for Thanksgiving the following weekend — was pronounced dead at the hospital.
The indictment comes after grand juries in Ferguson, Missouri and Staten Island, a borough of New York City, voted not to charge the white police officers who killed two black men, Michael Brown, 18 and Eric Garner, 42, that raised serious questions about the grand jury system, and the relationship of local district attorneys with the police.
This could not have been an easy case for DA Thompson but, it will now be decided in a public trial before a jury if Off. Laing should be held responsible for Mr. Gurley’s death.