Brooklyn Boro

Akai Gurley stairwell shooting was reckless, prosecutor says

Defense says Gurley's death was 'tragedy,' not a crime

February 9, 2016 Associated Press
NYPD Officer Peter Liang, center, arrives Tuesday for closing arguments at his Brooklyn Supreme Court trial in the shooting death of Akai Gurley. AP Photo/Bryan R. Smith
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Prosecutors say a rookie NYPD officer’s shooting of an unarmed man in a public housing stairwell was the result of recklessness — and wasn’t an accident.

Assistant District Attorney Joe Alexis gave his closing arguments Tuesday afternoon at the Brooklyn manslaughter trial of Officer Peter Liang.

As he addressed the jury, Alexis displayed the gun that resulted in the death of Akai Gurley in 2014. The prosecutor held it in his left hand like Liang, who — according to testimony — is left-handed.

Alexis said a finger along the side of the gun would not slip off and “find its way to the trigger” by accident.

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The defense urged the jury to acquit Liang. Attorney Robert Brown concluded his two-hour closing argument Tuesday and said the death of Gurley was “a terrible tragedy” and not a crime. He said there’s “no doubt” the officer’s bullet took the life of an innocent man, but that Liang didn’t mean to kill anyone — and radioed for help as soon as he realized someone had been shot.

Liang has said his gun went off accidentally while he was patrolling the stairwell and he didn’t mean to kill anyone. The shot ricocheted off a wall and hit Gurley, who was taking the stairs down with his girlfriend rather than wait for an elevator at the East New York complex.

The officer testified Monday at his manslaughter trial that he didn’t know anyone was in the pitch-black stairway when he accidentally fired. 

The jury began deliberating on Tuesday.

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