NEW YORK – A jury on Thursday found a rookie New York police officer guilty of manslaughter in the 2014 fatal shooting of an unarmed black man — an incident that fueled U.S. protests against police tactics.
Peter Liang now faces up to 15 years in prison for the death of Akai Gurley, a 28-year-old father who was struck by a bullet that ricocheted off the wall in the stairwell of a Brooklyn public housing project.
The jury found 28-year-old Liang guilty of second-degree manslaughter and official misconduct after a two-week trial in Brooklyn, prosecutors said. The jury had begun deliberations on Tuesday.
Sentencing was set for April 14.
“Today’s verdict represents justice for Akai Gurley who was totally innocent when he was shot and killed that night,” said Brooklyn district attorney Ken Thompson.
The trial was a rare case of a U.S. police officer criminally charged for opening fire, and comes at a time when departments are under scrutiny for the shootings of unarmed suspects, many of them black, and other alleged brutalities.
The Chinese-American police officer and his partner had been on a routine patrol when the incident occurred.
Liang left the roof and walked down the stairs to the eighth floor. Gurley was shot as he stepped into the stairwell, where the lights were not working.
Two high-profile deaths of unarmed black men at the hands of police in the summer of 2014 sparked mass protests against police tactics and accusations of racism.
Eric Garner, 43, died after New York police put him in a chokehold, while Michael Brown, 18, was fatally shot by a white police officer in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri.
The shooting of Gurley came only a few months later, on Nov. 20, 2014. Liang had been on the job 11 months at the time.