The New York Times reports that the 27-year-old rookie cop was indicted yesterday (Feb. 10) on many charges including: second-degree manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide, reckless endangerment, two counts of official misconduct and second-degree assault.
A day after the shooting of the 28-year-old Brooklyn man, Police Commissioner William J. Bratton called Gurley, “totally innocent,” and the shooting an “unfortunate accident.”
Officer Liang’s indictment is the first in more than two years in regards to a civilian being shot and killed by the NYPD. This case is especially significant (and an anomaly) with the recent deaths of Missouri teen Michael Brown and Staten Island’s Eric Gardner whose assailants were dropped of all charges. Brown and Gardner were both unarmed.
The police say there was no verbal exchange or physical encounter between Gurley and Officer Liang before the shooting.
Gurley, was with girlfriend Melissa Butler when the shooting occurred, and they were on the seventh-floor stairwell. Both Officer Liang and his partner Officer Shaun Landau were on the eighth floor at the same time the couple entered the seventh. Then, Liang proceeded to shoot.
Experts say Officer Liang has no real claim to back up shooting Gurley other than that he could’ve just been frightened.
James A. Cohen, a law professor at Fordham University Law School and expert in criminal procedure, said, “What’s he going to say? ‘It was dark; I was scared.’ That’s not going to hold up in front of a grand jury.”
Rev. Al Sharpton called for the indictment of Officer Liang since Gurley’s killing, making the comparison to this case with that of Staten Island’s. Sharpton said he’d spoken to Brooklyn’s District Attorney, Kenneth Thompson, about the case.
“This is the tale of two cities,” Sharpton said. “He wanted to be fair to the policeman and to Akai Gurley, and this is what the grand jury decided.”
But still, others say Officer Liang shouldn’t be to blame because he does not have as much experience as others cops do.
“He was a rookie, and he’s not accustomed to this lifestyle,” said Kamala Crew, a resident of the building where Gurley was killed. “This is so sad. I know cops that did worse than this and got away scott free.”
“He was a good guy,” Margarita Robles said of Gurley, who was standing outside the building where he got killed. “Would I say this is justice? Yes.”