Wall Street Journal

March 9, 2016 11:30 a.m. ET


NYPD CPR Instructor Placed on Modified Duty

Officials launched a probe after former officer Peter Liang testified at his manslaughter trial that he didn’t receive proper training

By MARK MORALES

MARY ALTAFFER/ASSOCIATED PRESS
Police officer Peter Liang reacted by bowing his head as the verdict is read during his trial on charges in the shooting death of Akai Gurley in February.

New York Police Department officials put on modified duty the officer in charge of teaching lifesaving techniques to the academy class of former officer Peter Liang, who testified at his manslaughter trial that he was not properly trained in first aid, officials said Wednesday.

Officer Melissa Brown was placed on modified duty after an internal investigation was launched into claims made by Mr. Liang and other academy members at the trial. Mr. Liang was found guilty last month in the November 2014 shooting death of Akai Gurley in the stairwell of a Brooklyn public-housing complex.

    
BEBETO MATTHEWS/ASSOCIATED PRESS  
New York Police Department Officer Melissa Brown shown last year.   

Mr. Liang and his former partner, Shaun Landau, testified that they didn’t feel qualified or prepared to administer CPR to Mr. Gurley, saying their first-aid training in the police academy had been cursory or incomplete. Mr. Liang testified that the instructor gave the class most of the answers to the multiple-choice exam they had to pass at the end of their two-day first aid training.

Investigators reviewed the training given to the two officers and interviewed every member in their 2013 graduating class to determine the credibility of the testimony, officials said.

During the trial, another member of their academy class testified that he didn’t have any time to practice the first-aid techniques on a mannequin.

The Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, the union representing officers, defended Ms. Brown in a statement. “We are convinced that when a full review of the facts is concluded it will be clear that the training officer did her job properly,” Patrick Lynch, president of the PBA, said in a statement. “The PBA will not allow one of our members to be scapegoated for an ineffective training program.”

The two rookie officers were conducting a routine patrol in a dark stairwell of the Louis H. Pink Houses when Mr. Liang said he was startled and his gun fired accidentally. The bullet ricocheted off the stairwell wall and hit Mr. Gurley in the chest.

Both officers testified that they didn’t immediately realize someone had been struck. They said they argued for at least a minute in the upstairs hallway before descending the stairs, where they saw Mr. Gurley lying on a landing, with his girlfriend, Melissa Butler, attempting to perform CPR.

By multiple accounts, including their own, neither officer attempted to perform CPR or chest compressions on Mr. Gurley. But a city medical examiner said that Mr. Gurley’s injuries were fatal and that first aid likely wouldn’t have saved him.

Mr. Liang, now 28 years old, was convicted Feb. 11 of manslaughter and official misconduct and is awaiting sentencing, although his lawyers have said they would seek to have the verdict overturned. He could face up to 15 years in prison. The former officer and his partner were fired by the police department following the trial.