The New York City police officer who shot and killed an unarmed Black man in 2014 will not go to prison. Peter Liang was sentenced to serve five years of probation and community service Tuesday. The judge lessened his sentence from manslaughter to criminally negligent homicide moments before sentencing.
The Associated Press reports Liang will perform 800 hours of community service in the shooting death of Akai Gurley. The former New York Police Department officer said at the time of his hearing in February that he was remorseful.
“My life is forever changed,” Liang, 28, said. “I hope you give me a chance to rebuild it.”
A subsequent apology made more than a year and a half after Gurley’s shooting death was not accepted by the victim’s family.
Brooklyn state Supreme Court Justice Danny Chun said he didn’t believe the harsher manslaughter charge with a potential 15-year prison sentence was suitable for the ex-cop.
“Given the defendant’s background and how remorseful he is, it would not be necessary to incarcerate the defendant to have a just sentence in this case,” Chun said in the sentencing.
Liang claimed he entered the Louis H. Pink Houses in November 2014 and was startled by a loud sound, causing him to he fire his gun. The bullet ricocheted in a stairwell killing 28-year-old Gurley, a father of one.
During the manslaughter trial in February, The Atlantic reports trial jurors repeatedly asked to touch Liang’s gun and pulled the trigger to test his claim for themselves. Gurley had been walking down a set of stairs with his girlfriend, Melissa Butler, one flight below Liang. When he was shot, he laid bleeding on the fifth floor. Liang had stepped into the hallway with his partner, Shaun Landau, to decide who would call to tell their superior the gun was fired. Liang only stepped back into the stairwell to find the bullet. That’s when he heard Gurley’s cries and still did nothing to aid him.
Landau would later testify that the pair did not receive adequate CPR training. Gurley’s girlfriend had to ask a neighbor for a phone to call 911. She was left to resuscitate the victim as an operator coached her. Liang was charged with official misconduct because of his negligence in addition to the manslaughter charge, criminally negligent homicide, second-degree assault and reckless endangerment. Butler later sued NYC for Gurley’s death.
It was unlikely that the ex-rookie cop would have carried out the 15-year prison sentence. Last month, Brooklyn district attorney Ken Thompson suggested house arrest for Liang since he was patrolling the area and didn’t kill Gurley on purpose.