Peter Liang, the ex-NYPD officer who shot and killed unarmed Akai Gurley in November, 2014 will serve no jail time, according to a ruling handed down by Judge Danny Chun. Liang had previously been charged with manslaughter for shooting Gurley, but Judge Chun reduced his sentence to criminally negligent homicide. The ex-officer was sentenced to five years probation and 800 hours of community service.
Protests have flared up around the issue, especially since the most recent verdict. African American activists and allies are furious about the ruling, calling the lenient sentence a miscarriage of justice. “Justice for Akai Gurley Family“, a Facebook page started by Gurley’s relatives, called for supporters to gather in front of the courthouse to demand accountability. Upon hearing the verdict, Hertencia Peterson, Gurley’s aunt, said, “Akai’s life does not matter. Black lives do not matter,” while calling for a continued fight for equality and fair treatment. A statement issued by Gurley’s family voiced outrage over the decision, saying the sentencing recommendation “sends the message that police officers who kill people should not face serious consequences”, citing the “ongoing pattern of a severe lack of accountability…that allows the violence to continue.”
Liang, meanwhile, had his own supporters. Asian American activists and allies have called Liang’s indictment racially motivated, claiming he was “sacrificed” for white officers who were not indicted for similar murders of African American men. Members of CAAAV Organizing Asian Communities, an advocacy group preventing violence toward Asian immigrants, has issued a statement maintaining that Liang’s sentence was just.
Kimberly Ballinger, Gurley’s girlfriend and the mother of his daughter, is suing Liang and the City of New York for wrongful death, as is Melissa Butler, who was with Gurley the night he was killed.