Peter Liang will not serve a day in jail for the 2014 shooting death of Akai Gurley. Instead, the former New York City police officer will face five years probation and 800 hours of community service.
“I find incarceration to be unnecessary,” Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Danny Chun said during sentencing Tuesday. “But instead of sitting at home, I think he will be much more productive if he spends more time in community service.”
By Chun reducing his charges from manslaughter to criminally negligent homicide, Liang dodged the up to 15-year prison sentence he could have faced. Still, the lesser charge is a felony, meaning Liang cannot return to the force.
“No justice for Akai Gurley!” yelled Gurley’s aunt, Hertencia Petersen, as she left the court Tuesday.
Gurley was 28 when he died on the night of Nov. 20, 2014, after a bullet ricocheted off a wall when Liang, a rookie cop at the time, fired his gun in a dark stairwell inside East New York’s Louis Pink Houses. Liang’s attorneys insist he shot the unarmed Brooklyn dad accidentally.
In court Tuesday, Chun explained how there is “no evidence, either direct or circumstantial, that the defendant was aware of Akai Gurley’s presence and therefore disregarded any risk [to him].”
Brooklyn District Attorney Kenneth Thompson’s request was granted after asking the judge last month not to give Liang jail time for the conviction, which was ruled by a jury in February, saying how the case has “always been about justice and not about revenge.”
Chun agreed and after watching the video showing Liang entering the lobby at the Pink Houses he said, “I couldn’t help but feel he was entering with the serious mind of protecting the people. Shooting somebody never entered his mind.”
“Akai Gurley’s life doesn’t matter, Black lives don’t matter. But justice will be served one way or another.” Petersen said.
The grieving aunt added, “Sooner or later, Peter Liang, if not him in his lifetime, someone in his family, is going to feel our pain.”
(Photos from left: JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images, Akai Gurley via Facebook)