The trial of a New York City police officer who fatally shot an unarmed black man in the dark stairwell of a public housing complex in the city’s Brooklyn borough is scheduled to begin Thursday, Reuters reports.
Officer Peter Liang faces charges of manslaughter, reckless endangerment, official misconduct and other counts for the shooting death of Akai Gurley on Nov. 20, 2014. The incident stoked ongoing outrage over multiple cases of excessive police force against unarmed black men.
Liang’s lawyers have insisted that the shooting was accidental, and the officer is not accused of intentionally shooting the 28-year-old, who was walking in the stairwell with his girlfriend, the newswire notes. The bullet ricocheted off the wall, hitting the young man in his chest.
Prosecutors do claim that Liang acted recklessly by drawing his weapon in the first place. Prosecutors also note that Liang and his partner argued for several minutes about whether to report the gunshot, out of fear of being disciplined. According to Reuters, however, prosecutors have not released any evidence that the officers realized someone had been struck at the time. Shaun Landau, Liang’s partner, is expected to testify under an immunity agreement.
“It was just a terrible tragedy,” Robert Brown, one of Liang’s lawyers and a former police captain, said, according to Reuters.
Liang opted for a jury trial instead of a judge-only trial, the newsire notes, and Brown said that Liang may testify in his own defense.
“People like to hear from the person who’s charged,” he said.
Read more at the Huffington Post.