A New York City police officer charged with fatally shooting an unarmed black man in an unlit Brooklyn stairwell is expected to take the stand in his own defense at his trial for manslaughter on Monday.
Peter Liang was conducting a routine patrol in a public housing project on the night of Nov. 20, 2014, when he fired his gun once. The bullet ricocheted off a wall and struck the chest of Akai Gurley, 28, who was walking one floor below with his girlfriend, Melissa Butler.
Prosecutors said Liang, at the time a 27-year-old rookie police officer, spent minutes arguing with his patrol partner, Shaun Landau, about whether to report the shot to police headquarters while Gurley lay dying downstairs. After Liang and Landau realized someone was hit by the bullet, they failed to provide medical assistance despite their training, prosecutors said.
The shooting helped inflame tensions in New York and across the rest of the country over the use of force against minorities by police officers, though Liang, who is Chinese-American, has not been accused of deliberately firing at Gurley.
Prosecutors have said Liang acted recklessly in unholstering his gun in the first place and then firing unnecessarily. Liang's defense lawyers have said their client was justified in having his gun out as he patrolled the building without adequate lighting.
That defense was underscored on Thursday night, when two police officers were shot during a similar vertical patrol ins the stairwell of a public housing complex in the city's Bronx borough.
Jurors will weigh Liang's account with versions of the story offered by Butler, who described frantically trying to administer aid while Liang stood by, and Landau, who testified last week under an immunity deal with prosecutors.
Liang's lawyers have said he was in shock after the shooting and unable to render medical assistance to Gurley. He could be the final witness at the trial, which began two weeks ago in State Supreme Court in Brooklyn.
Al Jazeera and Reuters