When Akai Gurley was shot and killed by officer Peter Liang in Brooklyn back in November 2014, it was another name on the seemingly perpetual list of black men killed by police officers. It had been a particularly bad year for deaths such as this. Only months previously, Michael Brown had been shot dead by police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri and Eric Garner had died while being restrained in a chokehold by police officer Daniel Pantaleo on Staten Island in New York. Race relations were near breaking point across the country.
When he was killed, Mr Gurley had not been either guilty of or even suspected of any crime. He had been visiting his girlfriend in a housing project, the Louis H. Pink Houses in East New York, to get his hair braided. He then exited through an unlit staircase a flight below officer Liang and his partner, who were carrying out a routine vertical patrol of the building . Liang explained that he had been patrolling the same staircase with his gun drawn due to nervousness. When Mr Gurley suddenly entered the stairwell below, officer Liang claims he panicked and accidentally unloaded a shot, which sent a bullet ricocheting off a wall and into Akai's chest. Gurley heard the shot and ran, unaware that he had been hit at first but quickly collapsed bleeding. He died within minutes. Accidental or not, an innocent man was now dead.
In February 2015 Liang's case went was brought to a grand jury. Expectations were low in the disenfranchised black community. Officers Darren Wilson and Daniel Pantaleo had both escaped indictment and were free men, despite the above mentioned deaths. Given these precedents, officer Liang was suspected by many to receive the same fate. So when the grand jury handed down charges of second degree manslaughter, second degree assault, reckless endangerment, criminally negligent homicide and two counts of official misconduct, the black community and it's supporters felt some sense of relief. The following year at trial, Liang was found guilty of manslaughter and official misconduct. To most it seemed that justice had finally found the it's way to the police. But one community cried foul, pointing out a difference between the three cases.
Where officers Wilson and Pantaleo were both white, officer Liang was Chinese-American. The massive Chinese community of New York felt that Liang had been offered as a sacrifice to appease the Black Lives Matter protest movement and it's many supporters for the previous failures to indict. So they staged a protest of their own. Demonstrating is atypical for the Chinese community. They are definitely more a heads down make no fuss type of culture. But it seems that when they do it, they turn up big. It was estimated that 30,000 people showed up at Cadman Plaza Park in support of officer Liang. The crowd was so dense you could barely move in some parts. Another minority group felt victimized.