New York City

DA Recommends No Jail Time For NYPD Officer Who Killed Akai Gurley

Peter Liang shot an innocent, unarmed man in a stairwell, then texted his union rep rather than help his victim.


Peter Liang, the NYPD officer convicted of manslaughter

Flickr/Tony Webster

for the 2014 shooting death of Akia Gurley in the stairwell of a Brooklyn housing project, faced a maximum of 15 years in prison for his crime. But New York City's district attorney Ken Thompson has surprised many by recommending a sentence of no prison time at all, instead calling for Liang to serve six months house arrest, five years probation and 500 hours of community service. 

In a statement released yesterday, DA Ken Thompson wrote that Liang's "reckless actions caused an innocent man to lose his life" but that "There is no evidence, however, that he intended to kill or injure Akai Gurley."

Thompson added:

In sentencing a defendant, the facts of the crime and the particular characteristics of that person must be considered. Mr. Liang has no prior criminal history and poses no future threat to public safety?. ?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.

From the beginning, this tragic case has always been about justice and not about revenge.

On November 20, 2014, Liang and his partner were patrolling the stairwells of Brooklyn's "Pink Houses" housing project, which their supervising officer had specifically told them not to do. While conducting the "vertical" patrol with his gun in his hand, Liang became spooked by the sound of 28-year-old Akai Gurley entering the stairwell one floor below (Gurley took the stairs because the elevators were not working) and fired a single bullet which ricocheted off the wall and into Gurley's chest.

In the fateful moments following the shooting, Liang was reportedly "panicked" and texted his union representative rather than offer assistance to Gurley. 

When Liang was convicted in February, Patrick Lynch, the head of New York's police union the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association (PBA) said, "This bad verdict will have a chilling ­effect on police officers across the city because it criminalizes a tragic accident." 

WCBS reports Gurley's family expressed outrage at DA Thompson's recommendation:

"This sentencing recommendation sends the message that police officers who kill people should not face serious consequences," the family said in the statement. "It is this on-going pattern of a severe lack of accountability for officers that unjustly kill and brutalize New Yorkers that allows the violence to continue."