NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said Friday that the Brooklyn District Attorney acted with “courage” in his recommendation of no jail time for NYPD Officer Peter Liang, and issued a warning to a state assemblyman for his comments about the case.
In November 2014, Liang accidentally fired a shot into a stairwell while on a vertical patrol with his partner inside the Pink Houses in East New York. The bullet ricocheted off the wall and struck and killed Akai Gurley, 28.
Liang, a 28-year-old rookie officer, was convicted in February of a manslaughter charge. He was also dismissed from the police force.
This week, Brooklyn District Attorney Kenneth Thompson recommended that Liang not serve any prison time. Bratton said Thompson had made the right move.
“I commend the District Attorney for his courage in this matter. He has been under attack by some in the community,” Bratton said.
In particular, Bratton singled out state Assemblyman Charles Barron (D-Brooklyn), who made strong remarks outside Thompson’s office during a protest on Thursday.
“I protest. I do civil disobedience. We’ve done everything peaceful to try to get justice. But don’t make us bring Ferguson (Missouri) to New York City. It seems as though the only thing this country understands is when we tear it down,” Barron said at the rally. “And don’t blame me. I’m saying to you that some of our people in the streets are saying an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, and a life for a life.”
Barron said at the rally that many people felt that peaceful protests were having no impact.
“Even Martin Luther King, the prince of peace, said the riots are the voice of the unheard. He didn’t even condemn what he called riots. Am I saying that we should be rioting? Am I saying that we should do something that we haven’t done? I’m saying the system will determine it,” Barron said.
Speaking to 1010 WINS, Bratton said Barron was treading on shaky ground with his remarks.
“They come very close to being criminal in terms of inciting violence and riots,” Bratton said. “And so… he should be very careful about his words.”
Bratton said Thompson had a right to recommend a sentence.
“The District Attorney effectively charged the officer, took him to trial, the officer was found guilty. Now the district attorney, within his rights and purview, is making a recommendation to the court as to what he feels is the appropriate punishment,” Bratton said.
Bratton called Thompson “courageous” for recommending the sentence, but did not issue a position as to whether he or the department agreed with it.
“Whether we agree or disagree, it all falls within the responsibilities of his office, and he has clearly indicated that he will fulfill those responsibilities,” Bratton said.
In addition to probation, Thompson also recommended Liang serve six months of home confinement with electronic monitoring and perform 500 hours of community service. Though the charge carries no requirement for prison time, Liang faced up to 15 years in prison.
Prosecutors argued Liang’s actions were reckless and he shouldn’t have had his gun out. Liang’s lawyer said Gurley’s death was tragic, but not a crime, but Gurley’s family has said not seeking prison time for Liang diminishes their loved one’s death.