On February 11, a jury found NYPD Officer Peter Liang guilty of second degree manslaughter in the death of Akai Gurley. Liang discharged his gun in a stairwell during a patrol, and the ricocheting bullet killed the unarmed Gurley, who was visiting the housing project to get his hair done. Liang and his partner Shaun Landau did not administer CPR, and prosecutors say that he and his partner did not call in the shot to supervisors. Liang said that he did not feel qualified to perform CPR on Gurley because he was given the answers to the CPR exam at the Policy Academy and had never practiced before. NBC News reports that the conviction has the Asian Americans divided.
Against the national discussion of police violence against blacks, some Asian Americans feel that the Liang is being prosecuted to show that something is being done and that this is only happening because Liang is of Chinese descent. In this essay, Hastings Law Professor Frank H. Wu contends that it is selective prosecution. Says one Chinese woman quoted in the NBC News article: “If Liang were white, he wouldn’t have had an issue. They bully Chinese. It’s discrimination.” Shaun Landau, Liang’s white partner, testified against him under immunity from prosecution.
Some Asian Americans have supported Liang’s indictment. Cathy Dang, director of the Committee Against Anti-Asian Violence (CAAAV), a group that works on empowering low-incoming Asian immigrants, has been vocal in calling for Liang’s conviction, adding that all district attorney’s should prosecute white officers and the whole system needs to be accountable. For this stance, CAAAV and others with similar views have been branded by some as “race traitors.”
Liang’s sentencing hearing is on April 14. The day after Liang’s conviction, his partner Shaun Landau was fired by the NYPD. Akai Gurley left behind a fiancée and two children. I did not find anything on whether the NYPD will change CPR training procedures or exam cheating – this is not the first incident that an NYPD officer refused to give CPR, even before the Eric Garner incident.
(photo credit: Sam Hodgson for the New York Times)