In death of Akai Gurley, there were two victims

By Gladys Yan

Greater New York OCA Chapters believe there are two victims to the tragic incident involving an accidental discharge that led to a young man’s death. An innocent father of a young child is dead. And the career of a young rookie officer is over.

Both Akai Gurley and Officer Peter Liang are victims of multiple failed systems. The NYPD’s ill-advised practice of sending rookie officers to conduct vertical patrols in NYCHA buildings without proper supervision and training put Officer Liang in a compromised situation. If this practice had stopped, Officer Liang and his partner would not have been conducting vertical patrols that night.

Furthermore, Akai Gurley would not have been in the darkened stairwell if NYCHA had fixed the elevators. And NYCHA’s failure to fix the lights in the stairwell made the situation even worse.

Officer Liang should not bear full responsibility for a less-than-perfect system. Historically, the criminal justice system has been lenient on officers who have committed even more egregious acts, whose cases have never been brought to trial. This specific case highlights a glaring contradiction in our criminal justice system. Police misconduct and brutality cases can get very disparate outcomes depending on which district attorney is handling the case, the borough in which incident occurred, and the race of the officer and victims involved.

In order for the public to have confidence in our judicial system in cases involving police misconduct and brutality, there cannot be these glaring differences. Our judicial system cannot engage in selective prosecution. It must apply the same standards for all. In this case, a rookie police officer, who is an Asian American, is being scapegoated.

OCA continues to call for a fully funded independent prosecutor’s office that will handle police misconduct and brutality cases. OCA will continue to monitor the case to ensure the sentencing for Officer Liang is fair and consistent with an accidental discharge.

Gladys Yan


OCA Asian Pacific American Advocates