By Minnie Roh
Asian American Life
Peter Liang’s name became a rallying cry nationwide for justice after he was convicted of manslaughter for shooting an unarmed black man in a housing project stairwell in Brooklyn, New York. He was facing up to 15 years in prison but in a controversial turn of events, Peter Liang walked away without serving a single day behind bars.
Liang was a rookie New York City police officer when he and his partner were patrolling the Louis H. Pink Houses, a housing project in Brooklyn on November 14, 2014. The officers had just stepped into a 8th floor stairwell with their guns drawn for safety. A floor below them, Akai Gurley – unarmed and with his girlfriend – entered into the stairwell because the elevators were not working. Liang testified that he was startled by a noise and fired his gun. The bullet ricocheted off the wall and struck the victim in the chest who then stumbled down a few more flights before collapsing on the concrete floor. Reportedly, LIang and his partner argued about who would report the gun shot. Neither police officer administered CPR on the victim.
This case came during a tumultuous year of debate nationwide about white police using aggressive tactics against African American victims, including shooting and killing them while receiving minimal, if any, punishment. Yet, Liang was indicted and convicted of a felony for what appeared to be an unintentional act. The ground swelling response from the Asian American community, predominately Chinese, was immediate and powerful. Their message: do not scapegoat Officer Liang to pay for the mistakes of others.
The African American voices – Black Lives Matter and victim Akai Gurley supporters were equally as determined not to let another black death by the hands of a police office fall through the cracks. The tension between the two communities continued to bubble up, motivating community leaders to hurriedly assemble a race relations panel discussion filled with lawmakers and top leaders in both communities to come to a common solution rather than continue to splinter apart.
For more on this story, watch the May edition of Asian American Life.
This month, CUNY-TV’s Asian American Life also visits a sustainable rice farm in the middle of New York City and host Ernabel Demillo sits down with Stella Abrera, the first Filipino American to be named principal dancer at the prestigious American Ballet Theatre.
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