Jury selection Wednesday for trial of NYPD officer in shooting of Akai Gurley

ByEyewitness News WABC logo
Tuesday, January 19, 2016

NEW YORK (WABC) -- Jury selection starts Wednesday in the trial of NYPD Officer Peter Liang, charged with the 2014 fatal shooting of an unarmed man inside a Brooklyn apartment stairwell.

Liang was a rookie when he accidentally shot Akai Gurley in a dimly lit stairwell of Brooklyn's Pink Houses.

Liang opted for a jury trial, and opening statements could start Monday. He has also indicated he will likely testify in his own defense.

In court Tuesday, NYPD Lt. Vitaliy Zelokov recounted the seizure of Liang's gun and the officer's state after the shooting.

"I shot him by accident," Zelokov quoted Liang as saying. And he is alleged to have told his partner, "I'm going to get fired."

Prosecutors will claim Liang was improperly patrolling the stairwell with his gun drawn, and he pulled the trigger when startled by Gurley.

The defense will maintain the gun fired because of a defective trigger.

Outside court, Gurley's aunt Hertencia Peterson questioned whether her family will see justice.

"Had it been an ordinary person, that individual would have already been behind bars, awaiting trial," she said. "We want a fair trial, but will we get a fair trial in New York City? Look what happened on Staten Island."

Liang has been charged with second degree manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide, second-degree assault, second-degree reckless endangerment and two counts of official misconduct.

The NYPD has called the shooting accidental.