ASSEMBLYMAN WILLIAM COLTON
155 KINGS HIGHWAY BROOKLYN NY 11223
February 11 2016
STATEMENT OF ASSEMBLYMAN WILLIAM COLTON ON THE CONVICTION OF PETER LIANG
While I was not a witness to the events leading to the tragic death of Akai Gurley, and therefore, I cannot criticize the jurors in their determination, yet I remain greatly concerned that Police Officer Peter Liang has been made a scapegoat for the failings of many others in government which are a much more real cause to this tragic death.
The death of Akai Gurley in the Pink House is a tragedy for all involved: for the family of Akai Gurley who lost a loved one, for the family of Peter Liang who have suffered the public anguish following this tragic accident and for the families of all NYC Police Officers and the families of all victims of criminal acts who stand to lose many more loved ones if law and order and public safety is not preserved, No words can undo the suffering for all these families.
Everyone should be looking for justice to be done. But I remain disturbed that the prosecuting attorney made a closing argument to the jury implying that this shooting was deliberate and that Police Officer Liang pointed his gun at the victim- when none of the facts raised in the trial supported such an argument. This was a highly prejudicial and inflammatory argument, which should not have been allowed in a case where there was no evidence that the gun was pointed at the victim or intentionally discharged. It is undisputed that the bullet was discharged into a wall and not at where Akai Gurlety was located and that it only tragically hit Mr. Gurley after bouncing off the wall. All evidence shows that Police Officer Liang was not even aware that anyone was hit until sometime after the gun was discharged. This closing statement was so prejudicial and inflammatory that it may have clouded the facts of the case for the jury and it may well be a valid basis for an appeal of the determination.
Indeed there are many in government whose failings are much more a cause for the tragic death of Akai Gurley, yet none of them were considered for indictment. These include the New York Housing City Authority whose reckless neglect allowed the stairways of the Pink Houses to remain dark and dangerous for its residents, staff and police officers for months, It includes the irresponsible rhetoric of public officials which fanned an anti police climate. And it includes the inadequate training and the assigning of two rookie police officers together in a dangerous, darkened stairway for which they were never properly prepared.
For the sake of the well being of all the families of our great city, I hope and pray that true justice, and not revenge rising from anger over many past wrongs, will be achieved for all of our families. We can never remove past injustices by creating new injustices.