Peter Liang’s Reduced Sentence Divides the Community

A judge reduced the charges against the ex-NYPD officer convicted of shooting an unarmed man in the stairwell of the Pink Houses in East New York last November, giving him a no-jail sentence on Tuesday that sparked mixed reaction among the city’s Asian and African American communities.

Peter Liang

Peter Liang

Peter Liang, 28, who had only been on the job for 18 months, received a second degree manslaughter conviction in February for the fatal shooting of Akai Gurley, an unarmed black man. A bullet fired from the then-officer’s gun ricocheted off the wall and killed Gurley, 28, on Nov. 20, 2014. /

Acting Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Danny Chun reduced Liang’s sentence to criminal negligent homicide and imposed 800 hours and five year’s community service, Liang could have received a sentence of up to 15 years in prison. He was dismissed by the NYPD after his February conviction.

“Shooting that gun and killing somebody was probably the last thing on his mind. This was not an intentional act. This was an act of criminal negligence,” Judge Chun said.

The decisive ruling pleased the Chinese immigrant community along Brooklyn’s Eighth Avenue.

“I’m happy the judge made this decision, Liang is just a kid who made a mistake in the heat of the moment,” said Yao Chin, 60, a retired businessman.

New York’s Chinese community rallied vociferously on behalf of Liang, claiming he was made a scapegoat for the lack of indictments against police officers for other civilian deaths. The sentiment was repeated on social media and in the Chinese- language press.

Ms Suzie Xie, 24, a shopper at Fortune Bakery on Eighth Avenue added, “because he was Chinese they bullied him I am pleased with the decision today.”

However, Russell Brown, an African American, was disappointed at Liang’s reduced sentencing. “Another black man was murdered by the police and the officer got away with it,” he said.

The Brooklyn district attorney’s office vowed to appeal the ruling that has divided the community.

“My office vigorously prosecuted Peter Liang for manslaughter because the evidence established that his conduct was criminal and the rule of law demanded that he be held accountable for his actions in taking Akai Gurley’s life,” Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson said in a statement.

The politically contentious case amplified the fears of ethnic minorities especially black people about police accountability and transparency.

Mayor Bill de Blasio appealed to the city’s residents to stay calm. “The death of Akai Gurley was a tragedy. We respect the judge’s decision in this case, and we ask New Yorkers to continue our city’s tradition of expressing their views peacefully,” he said.