Credit: Contributed

After more than two weeks of testimonies at Brooklyn’s State Supreme Court, a jury of eight Caucasians, three Hispanics and one African-American began deliberating Peter Liang’s fate for the Nov. 20, 2014 shooting death of an unarmed Black man in the stairwell of the Louis Pink Houses in East New York, Brooklyn.

Last Thursday, NYPD officer Peter Liang’s manslaughter trial continued after a one-day break, with defense attorneys going hard at Liang’s partner, Shaun Landau, who was with him on the night the Chinese-American cop shot and killed Akai Gurley, who had entered the stairwell on the 7th floor of 2747 Linden Blvd.

It was Landau’s second day of testimony, as defense attorneys attacked his inconsistent accounts of the tragic killing. In question was why, when interrogated by Internal Affairs eight hours after the shooting, he never revealed that Liang said, “I am fired!”

“I hear a shot go off, I heard footsteps, sounded like running,” Landau recalled. “I was in shock, the gun just fired out of nowhere. He said ‘I’m fired.’”

“Is it possible he said ‘I fired’ not ‘I am fired?’” Liang’s attorney, Robert E. Brown, questioned.

“No, he said ‘I’m fired,’” replied Landau.

“In (an earlier) interview, did you say he said, ‘It just shot by accident,’ eight hours after, yet 18 months later, you recall what he said?” asked Brown.

“I was stressed and exhausted after the incident,” replied Landau.

“Your memory got better over time?” quipped Brown.

“Yes,” Landau answered.

He responded, “I couldn’t see where his finger was,” when Brown asked where Liang was touching the trigger, as prosecutors contend that Liang was recklessly negligent that night, not only for how he handled his gun but also for not aiding the wounded man he had just shot.

Fleidner pressed Landau on the two rookie cops’ inactions that night.

“What do you mean, you didn’t know what to do or felt unqualified to do CPR?” asked Fliedner. “You didn’t feel more qualified than the woman over him?”

“No,” replied Landau, as he described being fed answers by instructors during the CPR test at the academy and only briefly practicing on a dummy.

Landau explained what he heard that night. “It sounded like a person,” he said. “It sounded like grunting, crying. We ran down the stairs.”

Friday, Judge Danny Chun warned jurors not to read media reports about Thursday’s shooting of two cops in a Bronx’s Melrose Houses stairway.

Brown said, “These cases are remarkably the same. The Daily News headline says they were ambushed. Instructing the jury (not to read articles) implies the Bronx case has something to do with this case.”

Brown requested sequestering the jury for the remainder of the trial. Judge Chun denied the request. Reports on the trial said attorneys are not allowed to bring up the shooting of the two cops in the stairwell of the Melrose Houses, during the rest of the trial.

Also Friday, the defense produced its last witnesses, including a weapons expert, a former police lieutenant and a private investigator, Daniel Reefer, who the defense had hired.

Earlier last week Melissa Butler, described how the two rookie cops did not assist in reviving her boyfriend.

“I heard something on my left side, it was a quick sound, it startled me (then) the gun just went off when I tensed up,” Liang said during two hours of testimony Monday, adding that he shined his flashlight into the stairway and saw no one. He bickered with Landau for several minutes about reporting the shooting to their supervisor before he descended from the 8th floor, looking for the bullet. He then heard moaning. He followed the sound down to the 5th floor and saw Gurley in a puddle of blood with Butler over him.

“Between you and Melissa Butler, who do you think was in a better position to provide CPR?” Brooklyn Assistant District Attorney Joe Alexis asked Liang.

“I didn’t know if I could do it better,” Liang responded, adding he didn’t know Butler’s CPR experiences. Yet, he admitted, “there was nothing stopping me” from attempting to resuscitate Gurley.

“It looked like he was seriously injured,” Liang said. “His eyes were rolled back. He was laying there very still…I was panicking. I was shocked. I was in disbelief that someone was actually hit.

I said, ‘Oh, my God, someone’s hit!”

Liang choked back tears and turned away from the courtroom spectators. His tearful testimony fooled few in the courtroom. However, it was convincing enough for Judge Chun, who allowed him a brief break from the witness stand.

“I went over the radio, ‘Pink Post One, male shot, call a bus,’” he claimed he told a police dispatcher, yet the 911 transcripts don’t show Liang requesting an ambulance (bus).

During cross-examination, Alexis asked Liang why he called his sergeant on his cell phone rather than contacting him on a police radio, indicating that radio calls are recorded.

Liang replied he did not want a crowd of cops responding to what he initially thought was just an errant discharge.

Outside court, Gurley’s relatives called for Liang to be held accountable for what they see as a callous killing.

Prosecutors and Gurley’s supporters say Liang handled his weapon recklessly and did nearly nothing to help Gurley after realizing the bullet had hit someone.

“Peter Liang walked away and left Akai to die in his own blood,” Gurley’s mother, Sylvia Palmer, said outside court after hearing Liang, saying he showed no remorse.

Gurley’s supporters gathered outside the courthouse during lunch recess to conduct a brief news conference calling for the cop’s conviction.

Palmer said, “Police officer Peter Liang said that it was an accident, an accidental death. Peter Liang, my son’s death was no accident. You murdered my son. I need justice for my son. I need a conviction of Peter Liang.”

Gurley’s stepfather, Kenneth Palmer, added, “If you fire a gun and you know you’re guilty, say ‘I’m guilty’ and that’s it. Don’t put any family through what we’re going through.”

Sylvia Palmer continued, “I think by now he should have apologized . . . If he had only apologized, I would have believed it was an accident. He shows no remorse. The sadness, the emptiness in my heart, the emotional depression is still overwhelming. It hurts. He shows no remorse for what he’s done and it bothers me.”

Alexis dismissed Liang’s defense that his gun went off accidentally.

“Peter Liang was sworn to protect and serve Akai Gurley, but he shot him for no good reason,” Alexis said during closing arguments. “He heard a noise in a dark stairwell and instead of shining a light, he pointed his gun and shot Akai Gurley. He recklessly pulled the trigger. He nor his partner didn’t face a threat.

“He was trained not to put his finger on the trigger unless he was ready to shoot and kill … He had no reason to shoot Akai Gurley. He had an obligation to protect the people of the city of New York, the Pink Houses and Akai Gurley He violated his sworn oath when he killed Akai Gurley. Hold Peter Liang responsible and accountable.”

Closing arguments wrapped up Tuesday and jury deliberations began shortly thereafter. Liang is charged with manslaughter, second-degree assault, reckless endangerment, criminally negligent homicide and official misconduct. The judge threw out one of the official misconduct charges against Liang, but the other official misconduct charge still stands.

If he’s convicted of second-degree manslaughter, he could face up to 15 years in prison.