Emotional Cop Testifies on Fatal Stairwell Shooting

NEW YORK (AP) -

A police officer testified emotionally in his own defense Monday about the deadly shooting of an unarmed man in a dark Brooklyn housing project stairwell in 2014.

Peter Liang got choked up and left the witness stand for about a minute to compose himself before resuming testimony at his manslaughter trial.

Liang said he was heading down a darkened stairwell with his gun drawn and his finger on the side of the weapon, as he had done many times before without a problem. As he opened the stairwell door, he heard a noise: “It just startled me, and the gun just went off.”

He shone his flashlight to see whether anyone was there but didn’t see anyone. He told his partner he’d accidentally fired his gun and worried he’d be fired. He went back to look for the bullet, heard someone crying, went downstairs and found Akai Gurley.

“And I said, ‘Oh, my G-d, someone’s hit!’” and radioed that a man was shot and called for an ambulance.

Prosecutors say Liang handled his gun recklessly, and they have sought to use the testimony of his partner to show that the defendant, even after realizing he’d shot an innocent man, did almost nothing to help him.