by Henry Wong
Rookie NYPD Officer Peter Liang was convicted of manslaughter on February 11 for killing unarmed African-American Akai Gurley in a Brooklyn housing project. Liang awaits sentencing on April 14, 2016, and could face a maximum of 15 years in prison for second-degree manslaughter charges. He was also found guilty of official misconduct for not helping 28-year old Gurley after he was wounded and bleeding.
Liang was making a vertical patrol with his partner on November 14, 2014, when his gun went off, ricocheting off a wall in the dark stairwell and hitting Akai Gurley in the chest. Liang testified that he accidentally pulled the trigger after he was startled from a loud noise in the stairwell. Gurley’s girlfriend, Melissa Butler, testified that she tried resuscitating him while Officer Liang stopped for a short time and proceeded down the stairs.
This case comes at a time when the police have been under extreme national scrutiny in many cases where an unarmed African-American was killed by police. Convictions of police in the line of duty are rare. Many Asian-American groups are convinced that Liang was convicted because he was not white, as a scapegoat for what has been going on in the national debate of police policies and conduct in African-American communities.
Asian-Americans are reminded of the 1982 Detroit case of Vincent Chin, who was brutally murdered by two white men who thought he was Japanese and blamed him for the economic crisis in the auto industry at the time and were set free. To many Asian-Americans, Liang’s conviction is another miscarriage of justice and should be reversed.