NYPD officer Peter Liang has been convicted of manslaughter and official misconduct by a grand jury for the fatal shooting of Akai Gurley in 2014. No NYPD officer has been convicted for an on-duty shooting since 2005.
Gurley was killed while walking down a darkened stairwell in a Brooklyn apartment complex, because his girlfriend didn’t want to wait for an elevator. Liang and his partner were conducting one of the police department’s contentious vertical patrols, which involves monitoring housing project stairwells with guns at the ready. Liang fired his gun when he heard a noise, and the bullet ricocheted off a wall and into Gurley’s heart.
The jury made its final decision on Thursday, following two days of deliberations. It ultimately found that Liang acted recklessly when shooting and “knowingly refrained from performing a duty which was clearly inherent in the nature of his office.”
Liang argued that he didn’t feel qualified to perform CPR and was in a “state of shock.”
He will be sentenced in April and faces 15 years behind bars.
It is extremely rare for police to face charges for fatal shootings, because they have a great deal of leeway to determine what constitutes reasonable force. Even fewer are convicted.
According to a Wall Street Journal report, a record 12 officers were charged as of September 2015.
Liang is the second cop to be convicted for a fatal shooting this year. In January, Oklahoma City officer Daniel Holzclaw was found guilty of serial raping and assaulting eight out of 13 black female accusers. He received 263 years in prison.