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Brooklyn D.A. Recommends No Jail Time for Cop Who Shot Akai Gurley

A prosecutor will ask a judge not to give jail time to a New York City police officer convicted of accidentally firing a stray shot into a dark public housing stairwell that killed an unarmed man, a recommendation that the victim's family said "diminishes" his death.

Brooklyn District Attorney Kenneth Thompson said Wednesday that Officer Peter Liang acted recklessly, but he didn't intend to kill 28-year-old Akai Gurley.

Liang, 28, was convicted of a manslaughter charge in February.

The rookie officer had been patrolling the public housing high-rise with his gun drawn in 2014 when he said a sudden sound startled him and he fired. The bullet ricocheted off a wall and hit Gurley on a lower floor.

At the trial, prosecutors argued Liang's actions were reckless and he shouldn't have had his gun out. They also said he did nothing to help Gurley as he lay dying on the floor. Liang's attorney had argued that Gurley's death was tragic, but was not a crime.

Thompson said justice will be served if Liang is sentenced to probation and six months of house arrest. Liang was fired from the police force last month.

"From the beginning, this tragic case has always been about justice and not about revenge," Thompson said in a news release announcing his recommendation.

"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," he said.

Gurley's family said they were "outraged" by the recommendation and would implore state Supreme Court Justice Danny Chun to ignore it and sentence Liang to time in prison at a court proceeding next month.

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

Also, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund released a statement criticizing Thompson for is recommendation.

“This reinforces the sense that there are two justice systems — one for the police and one for civilians — where police officers, even when convicted of taking the life of an innocent person, can trust that prosecutors will not recommend that the officer serve time in jail,” said Sherrilyn Ifill, President and Director-Counsel of the LDF.

 

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