On Tuesday afternoon, news broke of NYPD officer Peter Liang's indictment for fatally shooting Akai Gurley, an unarmed 28-year-old black man shot dead in a Brooklyn housing project on Nov. 20. This means that the rookie cop will face a criminal trial for Gurley's death — Liang's indictment is for second-degree manslaughter, carrying a possible sentence of up to 15 years in prison, according to the New York Daily News.
The facts of the case were tragic and heartbreaking from the start, so it's good to know that a grand jury opted to take this first step towards a fair and full trial. As for when it'll actually start, that's too early to say. But at the very least we now know that Gurley will have a chance for the vigorous defense in a court of law that he deserves — even NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton admitted after the shooting that Gurley was a "total innocent."
Liang, along with his fellow first-year officer partner, were patrolling Brooklyn's Pink Houses project on the fateful night. The Pink Houses are known both for being aggressively policed — the NYPD sometimes runs floor-by-floor "vertical patrols" through the building stairwells in low-income neighborhoods — and for having very poor maintenance conditions, with many lights not functioning. It was allegedly under these conditions, in a darkened stairwell, that Liang fatally shot Gurley, who was walking up the steps below the officers with his girlfriend after getting sick of waiting for an elevator, according to The New York Times.
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