New York Daily News

Updated, March 24, 2016, 4:09 AM

  

 

Akai Gurley's family outraged after Brooklyn DA Kenneth Thompson recommends house arrest, no jail time, for ex-NYPD cop Peter Liang

BY CHRISTINA CARREGA-WOODBY, THOMAS TRACY, CRAIG WOLFF, JOHN MARZULLI

MARY ALTAFFER/AP
Former NYPD cop Peter Liang was convicted in February of manslaughter in the death of Akai Gurley.

Anguished relatives lashed out Wednesday when Brooklyn District Attorney Kenneth Thompson said the cop who killed Akai Gurley shouldn’t spend so much as a day in prison.

The frustrated family was further infuriated that Thompson didn’t even have the courtesy to tell them he was recommending that a judge give fired cop Peter Liang only 500 hours of community service, five years of probation and six months of home confinement.

A jury convicted Liang of manslaughter last month for the November 2014 shooting of Gurley in a darkened Pink Houses stairwell in East New York.

“I call it a modern-day lynching,” said Gurley’s aunt Hertencia Petersen. “It’s like killing Akai over and over again.”

Petersen said Gurley’s mother, Sylvia Palmer, was reeling from Thompson’s recommendation — and the fact that she heard about it from the media.

Gurley was shot dead inside the Pink Houses on Nov. 20, 2014. (Facebook)

“Unfortunately, an apology is not going to bring Akai back,” Ballinger said. “I look forward to telling Mr. Liang how his actions that night have affected Akaila and myself. I’m curious what he has to say and if he has any remorse.”

In his letter to Supreme Court Justice Danny Chun, Thompson argued that Liang poses no threat, and he noted that in 2005 former NYPD cop Bryan Conroy was sentenced to five years of probation and 500 hours of community service after he was convicted of criminally negligent homicide in the shooting of Ousmane Zongo in Chelsea.

“Because the incarceration of the defendant is not necessary to protect the public, and because of the unique circumstances of this case, the People do not believe that a prison sentence is warranted,” Thompson wrote Chun.

Thompson said there are mitigating circumstances that favor probation — the fact that Liang was a rookie with less than a year on the street, that he was patrolling a darkened stairwell to try to keep the residents of the Pink Houses safe and that there was no evidence that he intended to kill 28-year-old Gurley, who was two floors below him.

Liang fired one round that ricocheted off a wall and struck Gurley in the chest, killing him.

CCOURTESY OF COMMUNITIES UNITED FOR POLICE REFORM
Gurley's stepfather Ken Palmer, his wife Sylvia, pictured during the trial.
ANDREW SCHWARTZ/FOR NEW YORK DAILY NEW
 Kimberly Ballinger, the mother of Gurley's child, pictured during Liang's trial.

The cop was violating NYPD protocol by having his finger on the trigger of his service weapon when there was no immediate threat posed to him or his partner.

Neither Liang nor his partner, Shaun Landau, who was also fired from the NYPD, administered CPR to Gurley as he lay dying in the stairwell. They both claimed that they had received inadequate training.

Ballinger lawyer Scott Rynecki said it’s his understanding that Liang wants to “express his regret.”

“We felt it would be a good way to start the healing process,” Rynecki said. “We still firmly believe in the jury’s verdict of guilt, and we are moving ahead with our wrongful death lawsuit.”

JESSE WARD/FOR NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Brooklyn DA Ken Thompson (l) with prosecutor Joe Alexis (r) at State Supreme Court in Brooklyn for closing arguments in the trial against police officer Peter Liang.

Ballinger is seeking $50 million in her suit against the city, the Housing Authority, the NYPD, Liang and Landau.

Patrick Lynch, president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, said Wednesday that Liang should never have been charged with a crime.

“The reasons cited by the DA for justifying no jail time in this tragedy are the very same reasons that the officer should not have been indicted in the first place,” Lynch said.

Not everyone agreed.

“We are outraged that District Attorney Thompson’s sentencing recommendation for former NYPD Officer Peter Liang includes no jail time,” said Loyda Colon, co-director of the Justice Committee.

“Liang entered a stairwell in the Pink Houses with his gun drawn — against NYPD protocol. He shot unarmed Akai Gurley, who was doing nothing wrong. Then he attempted to cover up his wrongdoing rather than assist Gurley, who lay dying on the floor. These are criminal actions, for which Liang should be held accountable.”

Colon called on the judge to send Liang to prison, slamming Thompson, who is African-American, as a “hypocrite and part of a criminal justice system that continues to devalue black lives.”

Members of the Asian-American community have been urging leniency in Liang’s sentencing.

“The district attorney has tempered justice with mercy,” said Don Lee, a Chinatown activist.

With Denis Slattery