New York Daily News

February 11, 2015, 4:10 AM




Akai Gurley, Peter Liang and the course of justice


Now, the facts of that tragic night may come to light

The indictment of NYPD Officer Peter Liang for the fatal shooting of Akai Gurley allows the gears of justice to turn, and for a full public examination of the terrible November night when an innocent young man was cut down.

We know that Liang and partner Shaun Landau, both rookies, were assigned to a vertical patrol in East New York’s Pink Houses.

That they were entering a dark stairwell from the roof. That both said Liang then chose to take out his weapon.

That Liang’s gun fired, releasing one shot that struck Gurley, who’d just entered the stairs one flight below them.

And that after that shooting, the officers retreated, where they called not their supervisor or emergency medical help, but their union representative. For more than six minutes after Liang shot a man, they did not answer their radios.

By all accounts, Liang did not intend to shoot Gurley. The grand jury empaneled by Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson seems to have accepted that narrative, reportedly indicting him on charges of second-degree manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide and reckless endangerment.

If Liang goes to trial, Thompson will have the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that he was criminally reckless or negligent in his use of his gun — that what happened in the stairwell was more than a tragic accident.

Already, the grand jury bill serves as an implicit rebuke to those who have claimed that, so cozy are cops and prosecutors, a district attorney would never indict a police officer.

As to those who say the department is beyond reform or refinement, it was just hours after the shooting when Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said that from what he knew, Gurley was a “total innocent,” and repeated his plans to ensure rookies would be paired with veterans on dangerous assignments.

Public officials reacted to news of the indictment responsibly.

“It has been reported that a Brooklyn grand jury has acted in this case. No matter the specific charges, this case is an unspeakable tragedy for the Gurley family. We urge everyone to respect the judicial process as it unfolds,” said Mayor de Blasio.

“This officer deserves the same due process afforded to anyone involved in the accidental death of another,” said PBA president Pat Lynch, noting the difficult situation of a young officer put on a dangerous assignment.

Now, the facts will come to light and be judged in the proper and best venue, before either a judge or a jury of his peers.