NY officer convicted in stairwell death

Police officer Peter Liang reacts as the verdict is read during his trial on charges in the shooting death of Akai GurleyImage copyright

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Peter Liang put his head in his hands after the verdict was read

A New York City police officer has been convicted of manslaughter for fatally shooting an unarmed black man in a darkened stairwell.

Peter Liang could face up to 15 years in prison for killing Akai Gurley.

Advocates for police accountability have closely watched the case because US police officers who injure or kill civilians rarely face criminal charges.

Gurley’s death in 2014 came amid several high-profile cases in which officers killed unarmed black men.

The deaths of black men such as Eric Garner of New York and Michael Brown of Missouri sparked protests across the US.

Authorities declined to bring charges against the officers involved in those cases.

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Gurley was killed inside the stairwell of his public housing complex in Brooklyn

The officer’s supporters have said Liang, who is Chinese American, is being made a scapegoat for previous injustices. His defence team said the shooting was an accident, not a crime.

However, prosecutors said Liang, a newly recruited officer, handled his weapon recklessly and did little to help Gurley after he was shot.

“Instead of shining a light, he pointed his gun and shot Akai Gurley,” prosecutor Joe Alexis said in his closing argument.

Liang, 28, testified that he was patrolling a stairwell inside a public housing complex in Brooklyn when he was startled by a sound and fired his weapon by mistake.

The bullet ricocheted off the wall and hit Gurley, 28, who was standing on a lower floor.

“I was panicking. I was shocked and in disbelief that someone was hit,” said Liang who wept during his testimony.

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