Peter Laing was recommended probation in 2014 stairwell shooting of Akai Gurley

NYPD Officer Peter Liang May Avoid Prison Over Stairway Shooting Of Akai Gurley

Rookie police officer Peter Liang, who was convicted of manslaughter in February, may not face jail time over the shooting of an unarmed man in a New York City stairwell.

As the Inquisitr reported on February 16, Laing was patrolling a public-housing high-rise in 2014 with his gun drawn. He had entered a darkened stairwell when he was frightened by a noise and inadvertently fired his weapon. The bullet ricoched off the wall and struck 28-year-old Akai Gurley, who was standing in the stairwell with his friend Melissa Butler. Butler administered care to Gurley, who tragically died as a result of the shooting.

Akai Gurley with his daughter
Image via Kimberly Ballanger

Laing was convicted of manslaughter in February, as well as official misconduct for not providing adequate care for Gurley as he lay wounded. Laing stated that he initially believed that he had not hit anyone, and was reported by New York Daily News as having bickered with his partner over who would report the incident. He stated that it wasn’t until he saw Butler frantically trying to save her friend’s life that he realized the magnitude of what had happened. Even then, he chose to allow Butler to continue providing care, citing a lack of confidence.

“I didn’t know if I could do it better than her,” said Laing.

Police officer Peter Liang reacts as the verdict is read during his trial for the stairwell shooting of Akai Gurley
Image via Mary Altaffer/AP Photos

At the time, reactions to the verdict were mixed. Brietbart reported feeling that Laing’s verdict was the result of the need for a scapegoat, a response that was deemed necessary to combat the outrage over the numerous police-related shootings over the past two years. Thousands marched in support of Laing, chanting “Chinese Lives Matter.” Other law enforcement officials related to the case also expressed remorse, citing that Laing had “done nothing wrong,” and that it should be a trial for “one cop, not all cops.”

Others, however, feel as though justice was finally being served and expressed hope that police officers would be held more accountable. As Newsday reported, Laing’s comments that the conviction would have a “chilling effect” on cops sends the message that while police officers must be protected, black lives are expendable. The article also raised questions about how darkened stairwells and public housing are deemed dangerous by police officers, but suitable for residences for people of color.

Protesters attend a rally in the Brooklyn borough of New York in support of Peter Laing.
Image via Craig Ruttle/AP Photos

Gurley’s family, who sat in the front row every day of the two-week trial, reported being pleased with the outcome.

“I want to thank the district attorney’s office. The entire staff did a very good job of presenting the evidence. I’m just happy. I am happy with the verdict,” Gurley’s mother said.

Laing was the first officer to be convicted in New York in over a decade, and faced up to 15 years in jail.

With emotions running so high regarding the 2014 stairwell shooting, many were eagerly and anxiously waiting to see how the case would proceed. On Thursday, March 23, 2016, Brooklyn District Attorney Kenneth Thompson revealed that he recommended against prison as an adequate punishment for the act of manslaughter committed by Laing, CBS News reports. Instead, his recommendation includes five years’ probation, 500 hours of community service, and six months of community service. Thompson stated that while there were “no winners” in this case, his decision was made with a desire for “justice” instead of “revenge.”

“Mr. Liang has no prior criminal history and poses no future threat to public safety,” said Thompson. He elaborated, “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.” The entire statement can be read in the link below.

However, Gurley’s family does not believe that such a sentence would constitute justice. In fact, ABC News reports that they are “outraged” by the recommendation.

“Peter Liang has not served a single day in jail, and he must be held accountable. The district attorney’s inadequate recommendation diminishes what Peter Liang did. It diminishes Akai’s death,” Gurley’s family responded in a statement.

Akai Gurley's stepfather Kenneth Palmer, right, and mother Sylvia Palmer were "outraged" by the recommendation that "diminished" Akai Gurleys death.
Image via Mary Altaffer/AP Photos

Others echoed the family’s response on Twitter.

While the judge assigned to the case, state Supreme Court Justice Danny Chun, is under no obligation to follow the recommendation, historically, district attorneys’ opinions are given significant weight. With emotions running so high, certainly many, both supporters and detractors of Peter Laing, will be anxiously awaiting the final outcome of the accidental, but tragic, 2014 stairwell shooting.

[Featured image via Mary Altaffer/AP Photos]

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