(NEW YORK) — A former New York City police officer is expected to be sentenced Tuesday in the shooting death of an unarmed man who the police commissioner said “just happened” to be in the dark stairwell when the officer fired his gun.
A jury convicted Peter Liang of second-degree manslaughter in February for the shooting death of Akai Gurley. The police department fired Liang shortly after the verdict.
Liang was 28 years old and 18 months out of the police academy when he was patrolling a public housing project in Brooklyn, New York, in November 2014. He fired once and the bullet ricocheted, killing Gurley, who was also in the stairwell.
Liang could be sentenced to up to 15 years in prison for manslaughter.
But Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson, who has said the officer should not have had his finger on the gun unless he was ready to shoot, told the judge last month that “a prison sentence is not warranted.” Thompson recommended that Liang be sentenced to five years of probation, with the condition that he serve six months of home confinement with electric monitoring, and 500 hours of community service.
Thompson said in a statement that Liang’s “reckless actions caused an innocent man to lose his life. There is no evidence, however, that he intended to kill or injure Akai Gurley. When Mr. Liang went into that building that night, he did so as part of his job and to keep the people of Brooklyn and our city safe.”
“Liang has no prior criminal history and poses no future threat to public safety. Because his incarceration is not necessary to protect the public, and due to the unique circumstances of this case, a prison sentence is not warranted,” Thompson said. “The sentence that I have requested is just and fair under the circumstances of this case. From the beginning, this tragic case has always been about justice and not about revenge.”
Liang’s attorney Paul Shechtman told ABC News before sentencing that he hopes the judge will follow Thompson’s recommendation.
Going forward, Shechtman said they are looking to appeal the conviction as well as a juror misconduct motion that was denied last week.
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