‘Judge Chun, give Akai Gurley’s killer jail time,’ say family and supporters

Nayaba Arinde | 4/7/2016, 12:34 p.m.
Family members and supporters of cop-slain young father Akai Gurley are asking sentencing judge Danny Chun to throw the book ...
Akai Gurley Contributed

Family members and supporters of cop-slain young father Akai Gurley are asking sentencing judge Danny Chun to throw the book at shooter (now former cop) Peter Liang when he sentences Liang on April 14, 2016.

“If it was Akai Gurley who had shot officer Peter Liang, would Brooklyn DA Ken Thompson recommend no jail time?” asked Hertencia Petersen, speaking with the Amsterdam News.

“Judge Chun, the family would like you to please do the moral thing, that according to the law, if someone is convicted of manslaughter, they can face up to 15 years in jail. We are hoping that just because Liang was a police officer when he shot and killed my nephew, he will not be given any special privileges.”

Loud outrage was expressed last month by the Gurley family and supporters when, after indicting Liang and getting the conviction a few weeks later, Thompson recommended that Liaing should get no jail time, but house arrest and community service for the manslaughter.

Protestors shouted “betrayal” and “traitor” outside Thompson’s office, the day after he said that justice had been served with Liang’s conviction and that there was no need for Liang to serve jail time.“There is no evidence, however, that he intended to kill or injure Akai Gurley,” Thompson rationalized. “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.”

As Liang performed a vertical patrol with fellow rookie Shaun Landau on Nov. 20, 2014, at the Louis H. Pink Houses in East New York, Brooklyn, Liang defied police department policy and walked the hallways and stairs with his gun drawn. Liang claimed that he heard a noise, accidently fired his weapon and hit Gurley, who had just walked into the stairwell with his girlfriend Melissa Butler.

The bullet hit Gurley in the chest. As he bled out, neither of the two New York City police officers offered help. Instead they walked past the dying man, allegedly looking for the shell casing.

Liang was convicted of manslaughter. This verdict amazed a demo fatigued/motivated protest community. Just a few weeks later, Thompson’s surprise announcement enraged the very same community and beyond.

This case has raised tension in the city and further strained already tenuous community-police relations. Hundreds in the Asian community rallied in Downtown Brooklyn in March in defense of Liang. Positions were further polarized as supporters of Liang proclaimed that he was being used as a “scapegoat” because he is Chinese-American. Supporters of Gurley, a Black American man with family from the U.S. Virgin Islands, slammed this position as a request for the white privilege that other killer cops who are Caucasian have received.

“We want Judge Chun to follow through with the process and jail this man for killing an unarmed man whose daughter and family will never ever see again,” said Assemblyman Charles Barron.

Liang’s defense team tried again this week to get the case thrown out on a technicality. Thompson denied the request.

Chun, known to be a “hard, but fair judge,” is set to pronounce Liang’s sentence Thursday, April 14. The courtroom is expected to be packed with Gurley family members and supporters, supporters of Liang and probably local, national and international media.

“We are going to pack the court to let Judge Danny Chun know that we demand that he seriously consider the severity of the manslaughter crime [former] police officer Peter Liang has been convicted of and sentence him up to 15 years,” said Barron. “We just hope that Judge Chun has a stronger commitment to justice than the current DA has displayed. D.A. Thompson managed to indict this then- NYPD officer, fought for and won a manslaughter conviction, and then succumbed to political pressure, and perhaps an Asian contingent request, and reverses his own righteous judicial victory, and decides to give this killer cop house arrest and a few hours community service.”

Petersen told the Amsterdam News, “On April 14 … his mother Sylvia Palmer, my sister … we hope that Judge Chun will take seriously the crimes for which Peter Liang was convicted and appropriately sentence Liang to serve time in prison.”