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Opinion: Why Peter Liang Deserves to be Indicted for Death of Akai Gurley

Jason Fong on Justice for Akai Gurley

By Jason Fong

Peter Liang, a rookie NYPD officer, fired the bullet that killed unarmed Akai Gurley in the Louis Pink Houses in Brooklyn on November 20, 2014. No one disputes this. Not Peter Liang. Not his partner.

Shockingly, there are some Chinese and Chinese Americans who feel that Liang should not be punished. They think that he should not be indicted – not because Liang did not kill Gurley, but because white cops in similar situations have not been indicted. In the past few weeks, my dad has received several emails from Hong Kong businessmen asking him to support Peter Liang because he has allegedly been “scapegoated.” These people feel that since white cops have been able to break the law and escape punishment, Liang should also be able to escape indictment as well. They point to the Staten Island grand jury which declined to file charges against the officer who killed Eric Garner and the Missouri grand jury which declined to file charges against the officer who killed Michael Brown as evidence that Liang’s indictment was politically motivated.

This is an astonishing line of reasoning.   Liang’s supporters are arguing that since white officers in completely unrelated incidents have not been indicted, Liang should not be either. In other words, since some white officers have been able to escape accountability, so should Liang.


As Jenn Fang of Reappropriate has noted, Liang’s supporters are essentially arguing that “Asian Americans want to have the same privilege to shoot unarmed Black men without consequence as is currently afforded to White police officers.”

This line of thinking by Liang’s supporters brings to mind an incident in the Chinese province of Hubei a few years ago. Parents of students taking the grueling college entrance examination called the gaokao rioted because they were upset that test proctors confiscated students’ phones and other devices that were being used to cheat. Some of the rioting parents and students punched test proctors and about 2,000 rioters damaged buildings and other property while chanting, “[w]e want fairness. There is no fairness if you do not let us cheat.” They are arguing that since others are breaking the rule, they should be able to do so as well, and that there is some deep inequity if they are not allowed to game the system as others have.

As Liang’s supporters might say, fairness dictates that we should be able to get away with murder since others have gotten away with murder.

We all know that not all lawbreakers or rulebreakers get caught and punished. Some get away with cheating the system. But the fact that some get away with rule breaking doesn’t invalidate punishing those who are caught. Yes – it might be frustrating to see white cops like Darrell Wilson break rules and get away with it and then see Liang indicted.  But the focus here should not be in Missouri or even in Staten Island.  The focus here should be on the incident that happened in that hallway in the Brooklyn projects on November 20, 2014 and Liang’s actions and omissions surrounding that incident.

I am sympathetic to the Liang family. My father grew up in the same Bensonhurst neighborhood (Yo, Bay Parkway!) in a working-class household where the adults did not speak English, and Toishanese roots ran deep and wide. Like Liang’s parents, my grandparents worked in restaurants and garment factories. My dad and his sisters were products of the New York City public school system and first generation college students who stayed close to home.

But my personal connection doesn’t mean I think Chinese people should not be punished for killing another human being. And it certainly doesn’t mean that the rules shouldn’t apply to everyone – especially when being the exception to those rules helps to perpetuate a system in which some who kill can walk away as if the death of another counts for nothing at all.

To those who support Liang, I’d like to say that you can call me a traitor, a banana and whatever else you’d like on WeChat, but the fact of the matter is, when you defend bad cops, incompetent police work, and a broken system that protects police misconduct, you don’t help our community. We deserve police who are competent, well-trained, and accountable. My 80-year-old yun yun still lives in Bensonhurst, and I hope that she can rely on police officers who are trained to act with compassion and efficiency and are trained to save not take lives. This is something that I would think all sides – even the police – can agree upon.

I think that it matters that yet another young Black life was shot down by police. If you agree, please sign this letter and submit a photo to this Tumblr campaign to show the Gurley family that his death will not be ignored. #BlackLivesMatter #JusticeforAkaiGurley


  1. RE: Why Peter Liang needs to be indicted in the Akai Gurley case: While in a perfect world, fairness is that Liang should be indicted, that is not what will help promote change and justice for society. Peter Liang is being a scapegoat to satiate the black community, and take the focus off the white cops. If you really want something to change, then we should be supporting Liang. And the reason should definitely be because the other white cops did not get indicted. American Courts are based on Law of Precedence. We need to, as the entire Asian community, put pressure on the white political leaders, to be at an uneasy, uncomfortable state, where they are forced to make a change. The black communities, will see again and again that nothing is happening, nothing is changing, and continue to protest and make their voice known. Just like during the 1960s racial equality movement, Asians marched right alongside blacks. Both Blacks and Asians need to band together, not start fighting each other. And definitely not fighting within our own race. Just imagine how powerful the Asian voice can be, if only we are smart enough to follow the footsteps of what works, of the Black and Jewish community, that our voice only has strength if it is united as one, to demand for fairness in this country.

    If you truly want change, it is to fight for change, not to let them follow their own laws, when they feel like it. Do not be satiated and believe that this is justice, and that things will change, because they are still in control, and exercising their power whenever they choose to. There needs to be new laws, new leadership, new policies to address the problems in the police force. There needs to be change, and we need to fight for it, as one voice.

    • RE: Why Peter Liang deserves to be indicted for death of Akai Gurley: HE KILLED SOMEONE. PERIOD. I don’t care if he is black, white, green, or orange. When is killing an innocent person OK? Yes, it was probably an accident, but just because he is a cop doesn’t make it not a crime. Any random person on the street would be charged. Cops aren’t above the law. And yes, indicting Peter Liang will make every cop, regardless of race, more accountable for their actions. Your argument basically states that he should be let off the hook because other white officers were let off and it is racist that the Chinese guy goes down. That is probably the dumbest argument I have ever heard. If you want to see change, we need to hold ALL OFFICERS, regardless of race, to the highest standards and make punishment for those officers who do not represent the qualities befitting those behind the badge doubly as harsh.

      • RE: Why Peter Liang deserves to be indicted in the Akai Gurley case: That’s where you are absolutely and completely wrong, indicating Liang will NOT make other cops more accountable. Indicting Liang was merely a gesture in an attempt to placate the angry public and you’re either a fool or a shill if you believe otherwise.

  2. RE: Why Peter Liang deserves to be indicted for death of Akai Gurley: Some Black folks and their Asian supporters are arguing a very dangerous logic, that “the fact that some get away with rule breaking doesn’t invalidate punishing those who are caught.” This is a trap for the Blacks. Imagine these scenarios – first, the Blacks complaining being stopped for no reason, but the Whites never get stopped, the cops say, the Whites get away with law breaking doesn’t invalidate us punishing those who get caught. when the Blacks complaining their being singled out for police shooting, the cops say, all law breakers resisting the police should be shot dead, the fact that those White criminals get away from it doesn’t mean the Black criminals should also get away from being shot dead.

    • Why Peter Liang deserves to be indicted for the death of Akai Gurley: I think under your scenario (“Blacks…stopped for no reason”) — it would be the police violating the rules and therefore the police would be the rule breakers — not the victims of an illegal stop and frisk. Thus, under Jason’s logic, the fair thing to do would be to punish ALL police for the action. I don’t understand how you can say that it is a trap for any citizen to have accountable police. It seems that you automatically associate “rule breakers” with those victimized by police.

  3. RE: Why Peter Liang deserves to be indicted for death of Akai Gurley: For the 2009 accidental shooting death of a Black by a White officer when patrolling a housing project, why would a mostly Black grand jury acquit the office from any wrong doing? And now the same Blacks would want to send Liang to jail for 15 years? Blacks discriminate Asians. They think Whites lives matter, not Asians.

    • RE: Why Peter Liang deserves to be indicted: I don’t know who “they” are, but you don’t speak for black people. Speak for yourself. Those white cops need to be held accountable and any other cop who does the wrong thing, including Liang. It’s not fair that those white cops got away with what they’ve done, but Liang needs to face the consequences of his actions for a completely separate incident. A person has lost their life and their family has to live with that. They don’t give a s*** about politics… If this was one of your family members, even if it was Liang or another Asian police officer, i can 100% guarantee you wouldn’t care what colour he was, you would want justice.

  4. RE: Why Peter Liang deserves to be indicted in the Akai Gurley case: Your comparison of this situation to the incident in China is poorly thought out and completely irrelevant because it is predicated on the assumption that race is not an issue in the Liang case. The whole point of the opposition to the indictment is that race is the SOLE factor for indicting Liang and not the white cop and your post does absolutely nothing to address that.

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