Trial to Begin for Officer Charged with Killing Unarmed Black Man in NYC Stairwell

Preliminary hearings are underway for Officer Peter Liang, the New York City policeman who has been charged with killing 28-year-old Akai Gurley in November 2014, reports the New York Daily News.

Liang was patrolling the stairway of Gurley’s Brooklyn apartment building on the evening of November 20, 2014. Gurley and his girlfriend, who were leaving the building, entered the dimly lit stairwell. Liang, who reportedly already had his gun drawn, immediately fired one shot, fatally striking Gurley, who was unarmed, in the torso. His death was ruled a homicide, and Liang was charged with second-degree manslaughter, second-degree assault and official misconduct.

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Lawyers for Liang are claiming that the gun discharged due to a faulty trigger. During this morning’s hearing, an NYPD supervisor testified that Liang, who had been on the force for 18 months at the time of the shooting, appeared to be shocked after the shooting.

“He was pale, unsteady on his feet and incoherent,” Lt. Vitaliy Zelokov said in court. “I understood him. He understood me when I asked questions.”

Liang was scheduled to appear in court this morning, and jury selection is set to begin next week.