Brooklyn officials arraigned Peter Liang (pictured above) the officer who fatally shot Akai Gurley, in Kings County Supreme Court Wednesday, as Gurley’s family and supporters rallied outside.
Liang’s arraignment came a day after the city announced he would be indicted for the November 20 incident, which happened during a “vertical patrol” in East New York’s (Brooklyn) Pink Houses development. After the shooting death, NYC Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said that Gurley was a “total innocent.”
NYPD officials claim Liang was holding his 9mm glock in his right hand and a flashlight in his left as he turned the knob to the building’s eighth-floor landing and accidentally fired down the stairwell. The bullet ricocheted off the wall and hit Gurley on the seventh floor, in the chest, while he was with a friend.
Yet prosecutors contend that even if that were the csae, Liang waited for four minutes and let Gurley bleed to death while he worried about keeping his job.
As Akai Gurley lay dying in the unlit stairwell of a Brooklyn housing project Nov. 20, of last year, the New York Police Department rookie who fired the fatal shot “just stood there” for four minutes and worried about his job instead of helping him, prosecutors argued Wednesday at the officer’s arraignment in State Supreme Court.
Peter Liang said to his partner “I’m going to be fired,” Marc J. Fliedner, Chief of the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Civil Rights Bureau, alleged. Fliedner also alleged that Liang refused to call in the shooting and argued with his partner as Gurley bled to death several stair landings below him. Gurley, a 28-year-old father, was unarmed.
Supreme Court Justice Danny Chun quickly granted Liang’s motion to be released on his own recognizance, ordering him back to court on May 14th.
Though happy about the arraignment, protesters warned the charges don’t mean the fight is finished.
“Overall, it doesn’t change anything, but it is going in the correct direction that we want,” said Ty Blizzy Black, a local activist and emcee. “The movement, of course, will still go on. We have the Eric Garner case here in New York—we’re not finished with that.”
“Nothing has really been changed until there’s an actual conviction and sentencing and change in the overall structure of the way we’re being policed,” added Miss Justice Jester, another well known local activist.
Jester also framed Liang as an ideological victim of Broken Windows—an NYPD policy mostly targeting low income minorities in which police persue minor violations such as vandalism or public drinking, which, in theory, stops more serious crimes. However, many criticize the policy as unfairly harassing low-income communities of color.
“If [Liang] hadn’t been indoctrinated with that kind of fear, and if we didn’t have this kind of structured police [policy]—[we wouldn’t have two lives that] have been broken because of Broken Windows policing,” Jester added.
For Hertencia Petersen, Gurley’s aunt, the arraignment means nothing unless it leads to “conviction, prison time, and everything else that comes with it. Meaning where my nephew’s spirit will finally rest in peace, and my sister will have some type of justice. Right now, we’re just taking it one step at a time.”
At a press conference at his office shortly after Liang was released, Brooklyn D.A. Kenneth Thompson reiterated Gurley “had done absolutely nothing wrong” and also his promise that “we would conduct a thorough investigation into his death. And that’s exactly what we did.”
Gurley’s partner and her lawyer held their own press conference outside Thompson’s office after his ended.
“As a result of the reckless actions of Peter Liang, there is now a two year old girl who goes to sleep every night without a father kissing her goodnight,” said attorney Scott Rynecki (pictured left of center in third from last image below), who is also helping Kimberly Ballinger (pictured right of Rynecki) with her civil suit against the city. “Clearly, what occurred that night could’ve been avoided.”
“This is the first step in justice,” Ballinger said. “Now what we need is a conviction. I have faith that we will get [that.]”
Liang is charged with one count of second-degree manslaughter, one count of criminally negligent homicide, one count of second degree assault, one count of reckless endangerment and two counts of official misconduct. He faces a maximum of 15 years behind bars if convicted on the top charge, per a press release by the D.A.’s office.
See more pictures from the demonstration below:
Kimberly Ballinger (center) with lawyer, Scott Rynecki to her left.