Updated Feb 23, 2016
A Chinese-American activist group that is outraged by the manslaughter conviction of former Police Officer Peter Liang for fatally shooting Akai Gurley in an East New York housing project last week vowed to campaign against Brooklyn District Attorney Kenneth Thompson when he seeks re-election next year.
Karlin Chan, who heads the Chinese Action Network, accused the DA of a “political movement” to convict Officer Liang of manslaughter two weeks ago. He told the New York Post that in making an endorsement of a Thompson opponent, “it doesn’t matter if they’re Republican or Democrat.”
Mr. Chan echoed several arguments made by Mr. Liang’s defense team: that the shooting wasn’t intentional, that manslaughter was too severe a charge under the circumstances, and that the DA took the position he did to score political points in the wake of outrage over the death of Eric Garner in a confrontation with police in Staten Island four months prior to the shooting of Mr. Gurley in a stairwell of the crime-plagued Pink Houses.
In the Garner case, a grand jury opted not to indict Police Officer Daniel Pantaleo, whose use of what appeared to be an NYPD-banned chokehold was a contributing factor in the oversized man’s death following a heart attack after he was taken to a hospital. A bit more than two months after that decision—which sparked more than two weeks of daily protests that were halted by the murder of two Brooklyn cops by a crazed man who said he was seeking revenge for the death of Mr. Garner and a teenager in Ferguson, Mo. in struggles with police—the DA brought his charges against Officer Liang.
Mr. Thompson, whose office declined to comment last week, said at the time of the indictment, “I think it’s unfair to say the grand jury did anything because of Eric Garner. This case has nothing to do with Ferguson or Eric Garner or any other case.”
After Mr. Liang was pronounced guilty, leading to his automatic firing by the NYPD based on the felony conviction, Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association President Pat Lynch reiterated his belief that what had happened was “a terrible, tragic accident and not a crime. This bad verdict will have a chilling effect on police officers across the city because it criminalizes a tragic accident.”
Asked through a spokesman last week whether the union—which endorsed Mr. Thompson in 2013 when he unseated six-term incumbent Joe Hynes—would follow the Chinese Action Network’s lead, Mr. Lynch declined comment.
Mr. Hynes at the time of the 2013 election was under fire because of a growing number of cases in which his office had gained murder convictions, and lengthy prison sentences, based on questionable evidence, much of it compiled by a Detective whose methods have been largely discredited. The fact that Mr. Thompson’s mother was a retired Police Officer also influenced the union’s decision that he would treat cops fairly.