In December of last year, I predicted that Officer Peter Liang — the rookie New York Police Department cop who fatally shot Akai Gurley in a dark stairwell in the Louis H. Pink Houses complex — might be the first (and perhaps only) police officer indicted in the killing of an unarmed Black man when this issue was captivating national headlines.
Earlier that year, the killing of unarmed Black teen Michael Brown in Ferguson failed to result in an indictment for his killer Darren Wilson. Eric Garner’s death following an illegal chokehold administered by Daniel Pantaleo also did not produce an indictment. The shooting of unarmed John Crawford III in an Ohio Walmart by police did not result in an indictment. The shooting of unarmed college student Jordan Baker by police in Houston did not result in an indictment. No charges were even filed against the Utah police who shot and killed Darrien Hunt, cosplaying with a replica sword at the time of his death.
In fact, post-Ferguson analysis suggests that although any district attorney worth their weight can get a grand jury to “indict a ham sandwich“, this rule of thumb only seems to apply to civilians; indictment rates for police officers are markedly lower. Josh Voorhees estimates for Slate that most police officers are not indicted for on-the-job shootings: between 2005-2011, only 41 officers were ever indicted, which works out to only a little less than 7 indictments a year. Many sources further report that only 1 in 3 of those police officers who are actually indicted are ever convicted.
I predicted in December that Officer Peter Liang might be one of those police who would face indictment.