Peter Liang, the former New York police officer who shot 28-year-old Akai Gurley in the stairwell of a housing commission building in Nov. 2014, took the stand in his manslaughter trial today.
Liang testified that while patrolling the stairwell of the Pink Houses public housing complex in East New York on the night of Nov. 20, 2014, he had his weapon drawn. He said that a noise startled him and he pulled the trigger by accident, firing a bullet that ricocheted before hitting Gurley, who was in the stairwell a few floors down. He broke down and had to be excused for a minute during his testimony, according to reporters in the court room:
Liang's partner, Shawn Landau, testified against him last week, alleging that Liang did nothing to help Gurley and delayed calling in the incident to his superiors after realizing that someone had been shot. Landau claimed Liang said, "I'm fired," in the moments after discovering Gurley in the stairwell.
Gurley's girlfriend, who was taking the stairs with him because the elevator in the building was broken, also testified last week that she gave Gurley CPR and was not offered any assistance from the officers, ABC 7 NY reports, having to ask a neighbor to call an ambulance:
Prosecutors say Liang handled his weapon 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.
Liang said he didn't initially know the address when he radioed for an ambulance, and although Gurley's girlfriend kept telling him, it took a bit for him to relay it because he was so shaken.
The trial continues tomorrow with closing arguments from both sides, and a verdict is expected before the end of the week. Liang is facing charges of second-degree manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide, second-degree assault, reckless endangerment and two counts of official misconduct, and could face up to 15 years in prison if he's convicted.