BREAKING: Judge Dismisses Official Misconduct Charge as Arguments Close in Trial Against Peter Liang

NYPD officer Peter Liang, accused of manslaughter in the killing of Akai Gurley, at the first day of his trial. (Photo credit: Twitter)
NYPD officer Peter Liang, accused of manslaughter in the killing of Akai Gurley, at the first day of his trial. (Photo credit: Twitter)

Arguments came to a close today in the trial against NYPD officer Peter Liang, charged with manslaughter and two counts of official misconduct in the shooting death of Akai Gurley, who was unarmed and visiting a friend at the time he was killed.

Two weeks of evidence came to a close when Liang took the stand to tearfully testify that he pulled the 11.5-pound trigger of his service weapon and a fired a shot into the darkened stairwell of a residential building when he was “startled” by an unknown, and that he failed to give CPR when confronted by a dying Gurley in the stairwell of the Louis H. Pink Houses because he didn’t feel like he had sufficient training to perform the life-saving measures and that Gurley’s friend — who had never learned CPR — would be better for the task. As for why he never called for help, Liang’s defense claims that his call for an ambulance was never recorded in official transcripts of the incident because reception in the stairwell was “spotty”.

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Trial Against NYPD Officer Peter Liang Begins With Dramatic Opening Statements, Arguments Over Emotional State

NYPD officer Peter Liang, accused of manslaughter in the killing of Akai Gurley, at the first day of his trial. (Photo credit: Twitter)
NYPD officer Peter Liang, accused of manslaughter in the killing of Akai Gurley, at the first day of his trial. (Photo credit: Twitter)

The manslaughter trial against Peter Liang — the police officer accused of manslaughter in the fatal shooting of Akai Gurley, an unarmed Black man killed when Liang opened fire with his service weapon in a darkened stairwell — began yesterday with opening statements by both the prosecution and the defense, and the calling of two witnesses. Liang’s case has been viewed as one of several examples of state violence against Black bodies in recent years, and several activists (including myself) have rallied in support of the Gurley family in calling for Liang and all other police involved in suspicious shootings against unarmed Black citizens to face criminal accountability. Late last year, news media reported that Liang had elected to face a jury trial in the case against him, and in the last week, jury selection resulted in a juror pool consisting of only one African American jury member and no Asian Americans.

Although many Asian Americans — including signatories of this open letter organized by CAAAV — have sided with Black Lives Matter activists in seeking #JusticeForAkaiGurley, Liang’s case has also attracted a surprising reaction from some within our community. Some Chinese Americans have come out in defense of Liang’s actions, arguing that Liang’s trial is evidence of systemic racial bias and demanding that the charges against him be dropped.

Liang’s supporters seemed largely unswayed by the details that have emerged about the fateful moment in the stairwell of Louis H. Pink Houses in late 2014 that left Akai Gurley dead by the police officer’s hand.

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2015 Asian America in Review: Top 10 AANHPI Stories You Might Have Missed

Sherry Chen and Xiaoxing Xi, two Chinese American researchers who faced espionage investigations this year before all charges were dropped. Many within the AANHPI community believe they are one of several victims of a policy of anti-Asian racial profiling currently being pursued by the State Department. (Photo credit: Saul Loeb, AFP, Getty)
Sherry Chen and Xiaoxing Xi, two Chinese American researchers who faced espionage investigations this year before all charges were dropped. Many within the AANHPI community believe they are one of several victims of a policy of anti-Asian racial profiling currently being pursued by the State Department. (Photo credit: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty)

As the year winds down to a close, these are the top ten political stories that had a major impact on the AANHPI community highlighting the many political issues that have defined the AANHPI community this year. Sadly, many didn’t receive much mainstream media coverage.

How many of these stories were you following this year?

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We Need To Stop Blaming the Victims of Police Brutality For The Violence Committed Against Their Bodies

Stills from the assault on Spring Valley High School student last week by South Carolina Sheriff's Deputy Ben Fields (photo credit: AP).
Stills from the assault on Spring Valley High School student last week by South Carolina Sheriff’s Deputy Ben Fields (photo credit: AP).

An unarmed 16-year-old schoolgirl who refuses to put away her cellphone does not deserve being grabbed by the neck and brutally slammed to the ground by a trained police officer. I repeat: an unarmed 16-year-old schoolgirl who refuses to put away her cellphone does not deserve being grabbed by the neck and brutally slammed to the ground by a trained police officer.

Last week, 16-year-old Shakara — a student at Spring Valley High School — was seen on cellphone video being thrown to the floor of her math classroom by South Carolina Sheriff’s Deputy Ben Fields. Cellphone video shows that Shakara was seated at her desk and making no sudden moves immediately prior to the violent assault where Fields grabbed Shakara from behind by her neck, and flipped her over so suddenly that the desk she was seated in overturned with her, and then bodily drags her out of the tangle of plastic and metal to lie prone on the classroom floor (video embedded after the jump). Already, social justice activists have rightfully identified the incident as yet another example of excessive police force targeting a Black body for unnecessary and unprovoked violence.

Already, too, however, a chorus of naysayers have also chimed in. “Hold up,” they say, “we haven’t seen the ‘rest’ of the video.”

“We don’t know,” they say, “what Shakara did to provoke the attack.”

There is nothing a seated, unarmed, and non-violent teenager could do that would justify this kind of brutal assault.

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NYPD Officer Peter Liang and his Partner Stepped Over Dying Akai Gurley, Never Called for Ambulance

Officer Peter Liang leaves his home in Brooklyn. Photo credit: Sam Hodgson / New York Times
Officer Peter Liang leaves his home in Brooklyn. Photo credit: Sam Hodgson / New York Times

In a week that has already left me disheartened over the state of race in America today, the last thing I really needed was to read the details of the prosecution’s case against Peter Liang.

The trial against NYPD officer Peter Liang, who fatally shot Akai Gurley late last year in a darkened stairwell of the Louis H. Pink public housing building, began this week with Judge Danny K. Chun denying the defense’s motions to have the charges dismissed. Liang is charged with six counts, including manslaughter in the second degree, reckless endangerment, and official misconduct. Revealing for the first time a number of details in the circumstances surrounding Akai Gurley’s death, the New York State District Attorney’s Office unsealed a document outlining the case against Liang.

To read the 57-page document is illuminating, and it weakens the argument made by some that Officer Liang’s indictment is an instance of racially motivated scapegoating. Indeed, the prosecution meticulously outlines a series of reckless violations of police protocol by Liang and his partner Officer Shaun Landau in the minutes leading up to Akai Gurley’s shooting at approximately 11pm on November 20, 2014, and Gurley’s death an hour later.

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