The fact that Peter Liang is on a short list of New York Police Department officers who have been convicted of the fatal shootings of innocent people, primarily African Americans, is no cause for celebration says State Assembly Member Charles Barron.
“This doesn’t make me happy. This is a rarity,” said Barron during a phone interview after Liang was found guilty of manslaughter and official misconduct last Thursday by a Brooklyn jury. Liang killed Akai Gurley, who was unarmed, in a stairwell of the Louis H. Pink Housing Development on November 20, 2014.
“As I said during the trial, not only was Officer Liang on trial but the American Justice System was on trial,” continued Barron, whose Assembly District includes the East New York neighborhood where Gurley was killed.
“And for me, the American Justice system is still on trial. His conviction is far and [few] between. We usually don’t get that but we still have a system that would exonerate police officers for killing us all across the nation,” he said.
NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo who killed Eric Garner by placing him in a chokehold and ignored Garner’s multiple pleas of “I can’t breathe” —a crime that was captured on video— was cleared of any wrongdoing by a Staten Island grand jury on December 2, 2014.
Bryan Conroy was the last NYPD officer to be convicted in New York City in 2005. He killed African immigrant Ousmane Zongo, who was unarmed, during a warehouse raid in May 2003. Conroy was found guilty of criminally negligent homicide and sentenced to a mere five years probation and 500 hours of community service.
“His sentence should be severe and he should be punished to the fullest extent of the law. The most severe sentence he can get, he should get. He took a life recklessly and senselessly and he was negligent in not trying to revive him with CPR,” Barron says.
During the trial, Liang admitted that he did not administer CPR because he felt he had received insufficient training in that regard before joining the police force. Partner Shaun Landau, who was fired by the NYPD after the conviction along with Liang, also did not perform CPR for the same reason.
Liang faces up to 15 years in prison when he is sentenced on April 14. Barron warned that Liang’s lawyers can still appeal once the sentencing takes place.
“So we must have to keep fighting and be vigilant. This is supposed to happen and it’s supposed to happen on a regular basis,” said the Assembly Member.