Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson on Wednesday recommended that former NYPD Officer Peter Liang not be sentenced to prison for the fatal shooting of an unarmed man 16 months ago.
Thompson said "justice will be best served if Mr. Liang Peter is sentenced to five years of probation, with the condition that he serves six months of home confinement with electric monitoring and performs 500 hours of community service."
A jury last month convicted Liang of manslaughter and official misconduct for killing Akai Gurley in an unlit stairwell of the Pink Houses public housing complex in East New York, Brooklyn.
Liang testified that as he entered the stairwell with his gun in one hand and a flashlight in the other, he was startled by a sound, he tensed up and his gun accidentally discharged. The bullet ricocheted off the wall and struck Gurley, who had just entered the stairwell one floor below.
Prosecutors said Liang - a rookie officer at the time ofthe shooting - acted recklessly in how he handled his gun. They also accused him of being more concerned about the future of his own career than in helping Gurley once he realized the 28-year-old had been shot.
"Peter Liang was indicted, prosecuted and subsequently convicted by a jury because his reckless actions caused an innocent man to lose his life. There is no evidence, however, that he intended to kill or injure Akai Gurley," Thompson said in a statement Wednesday.
"Mr. Liang has no prior criminal history and poses no future threat to public safety. 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 made the sentencing recommendation in a letter to Brooklyn Supreme Court Judge Danny Chun.
In a statement, family members of Akai Gurley said they were "outraged" by the DA's recommendation, calling it "inadequate."
"This sentencing recommendation sends the message that police officers who kill people should not face serious consequences. It is this on-going pattern of a severe lack of accountability for officers that unjustly kill and brutalize New Yorkers that allows the violence to continue," the statement reads, in part.
Gurley's killing drew national attention, and fueled the debate about police accountability.
People are not reacting favorably to Thompson's recommendation in the Brooklyn neighborhood where the shooting took place.
Some residents of the Pink Houses are struggling to understand the decision, saying they are shocked but not surprised.
Others are saying the NYPD is partly to blame.
"I think it's kind of crazy because even though, the type of crime it was, he's no different from anyone else that does something like that even though he was a police officer," said one person at the Pink Houses.
"He's not a threat to society. However, when people make mistakes, there are consequences. So even though he's been indicted, if he doesn't serve any time, really, well, there's consequences. We know the New York City Police Department isn't going to prison, so who is going to pay the consequences for his actions?" said another.
Chun is scheduled to sentence Liang on April 14. Liang, who was fired by the NYPD after the verdict, faces a maximum sentence of up to 15 years in prison.