A prosecutor said Wednesday that he has asked a judge not to give any jail time to a New York City police officer convicted of accidentally firing a stray shot into a public housing stairwell that killed an unarmed man.
Brooklyn District Attorney Kenneth Thompson said justice will be served if the officer, who was fired from the force last month, is sentenced to probation and six months of house arrest.
“From the beginning, this tragic case has always been about justice and not about revenge,” Thompson said in a news release announcing his recommendation.
He said that while the officer, Peter Liang, 28, acted recklessly, he didn’t intend to kill the victim, Akai Gurley.
“Because his incarceration is not necessary to protect the public, and due to the unique circumstances of this case, a prison sentence is not warranted,” Thompson said.
Gurley’s family said they were “outraged” by the recommendation and would implore state Supreme Court Justice Danny Chun to ignore it and sentence Liang to time in prison at a court proceeding next month.
“Peter Liang has not served a single day in jail, and he must be held accountable,” Gurley’s family said in a statement. “The district attorney’s inadequate recommendation diminishes what Peter Liang did. It diminishes Akai’s death.”
Liang was convicted of a manslaughter charge in February. The rookie officer had been patrolling the public housing high-rise with his gun drawn in 2014 when he said a sudden sound startled him and he fired. The bullet ricocheted off a wall and hit Gurley, 28, on a lower floor.
Thompson recommended that the judge sentence Liang to serve five years’ probation, six months of home confinement and 500 hours of community service. Though the charge carries no requirement for prison time, Liang faced up to 15 years in prison.
While the judge does not need to follow Thompson’s proposal at Liang’s sentencing proceeding next month, sentencing recommendations from prosecutors typically hold significant weight in most criminal cases.
The case has been watched closely by Black Lives Matter activists who have decried what they see as lenient treatment of officers, and by New York City’s large Chinese community, which has defended Liang and argued that he was made a scapegoat.
More than 10,000 of Liang’s supporters rallied in New York and across the U.S. after the verdict, protesting his conviction.