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Date set for trial of NYPD officer

By Jack Freifelder in New York | China Daily USA | Updated: 2015-10-02 10:54

Charges against a Chinese-American New York City police officer accused of fatally shooting an unarmed black man last year in a Brooklyn housing project have prompted a debate among members of the Asian-American community about the role police have had in the deaths of civilians.

Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Danny Chun announced on Tuesday that Peter Liang would go on trial on Jan 7. Liang pleaded not guilty to second-degree manslaughter and other charges in February in connection with the death of Akai Gurley, 28, who was killed in November by a bullet said to have ricocheted off the wall of a stairwell he had entered.

New York City Council member Margaret Chin, whose district covers Chinatown, and members of the Committee Against Anti-Asian Violence (CAAAV) say they support charges being filed against Liang.

"We believe that this case and the accountability of officer Liang means we need to hold all NYPD officers and the NYPD as a system accountable," Cathy Dang, executive director of CAAAV, said on Thursday in an interview with China Daily.

"For the CAAAV, we see the side where the Chinese-American community feels like [Officer Liang] is being made a scapegoat," Dang said. "But he's only a scapegoat if we let him be one."

Dang said she has tried to schedule meetings between the two sides, but much of her efforts have been in vain, she said.

"What I haven't seen yet is the validation of the family from the Chinese-American community," Dang added. "After NYPD officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu were killed earlier this year, there was an outpouring of support for the families. We want to see that type of support."

Doug Lee, a former candidate for the New York State Assembly who has organized events in support of Liang, told NBC News: "We all want law and order, and this selected enforcement of the law makes a mockery of justice."

Phil Gim, a Chinese-American businessman in Queens who supports Liang, said he sees Liang's prosecution as a response to the officer's Asian-American heritage.

Hertencia Petersen, an aunt of Gurley, the shooting victim, told NBC News on Tuesday that she wants to see justice for her nephew and accountability for Liang's actions. "We want him to serve jail time," Petersen said of Liang. "He's taken an innocent life."

In May, the Gurley family filed a civil lawsuit against Liang, Shaun Landau and the city's housing authority on behalf of Gurley's daughter and mother.

On the night of the incident, Liang - who had been on the force for less than two years - and his patrol partner, Landau, were working in the East New York section of Brooklyn in one of the city's housing projects.

Liang and Landau were patrolling a stairwell when Liang's gun, which was drawn, went off, police said. New York Police Commissioner William Bratton said in November that the fatal shot "appears to be an accidental discharge" of Liang's weapon.

Court documents presented by the prosecution said that Liang and Landau argued for two minutes over who would report the shooting, and waited nearly 20 minutes before calling in an "accidental fire" to their superiors.

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