AFRICANGLOBE – On Tuesday, a grand jury indicted Peter Liang, the NYPD officer responsible for shooting and killing Akai Gurley, a 28-year-old unarmed Black man, in the stairwell of his Brooklyn apartment building.
A grand jury in the same state, however, declined to indict another NYPD officer, Daniel Pantaleo, facing accusations for the death of another Black man: Eric Garner. Pantaleo was infamously filmed strangling Eric Garner, which the city’s medical examiner said caused the unarmed, 44-year-old man’s death.
Both officers’ actions led to the death of an unarmed Black man. Comparing evidence in the two cases, the decision to forgo a trial for the cop involved in Garner’s murder seems more haphazard and unfair than ever.
First, let’s review the details of the cases.
Gurley’s Stairwell Murder
Liang, gun and flashlight drawn, and his partner, Shaun Landau, entered an eighth-floor stairwell in one of the buildings at Louis Pink Houses, according to the police. Almost simultaneously, Gurley and his girlfriend entered the stairwell one floor below. Liang, an Asian-American officer, fired a single shot which struck Gurley.
Gurley then stumbled down to the fourth floor and knocked on a woman’s door who called 9-11.
Instead of administering first aid during that period, Liang and his partner texted their union representatives, according to the Daily News. Their commanding officer and an emergency operator couldn’t reach the duo for more than six and a half minutes.
The officer’s command also recently ordered them to not carry out these types of patrols, known as “verticals.”
Soon after the incident, police commissioner William Bratton called the shooting of a “totally innocent” man an “unfortunate tragedy.”
Liang had spent less than 18 months on the force when he was assigned him to patrol the Louis Pink Houses.
The district attorney’s office formally announced charges against Liang on Wednesday: namely manslaughter and official misconduct.
Personally, I support the indictment. A public court should have a chance to weigh the evidence and determine Liang’s responsibility in the shooting, which the NYPD has already deemed accidental. The victim and his family deserve as much.
The Public Execution Of Garner
Pantaleo, a white NYPD officer, caught Garner, 43, breaking up a fight in Staten Island and proceeded to arrest him.
Cellphone footage, which the grand jury saw, shows the whole situation unfold.
Garner started telling police to “leave him alone” and gesturing aggressively, which some consider resisting arrest. Pantaleo then placed Garner in a chokehold and wrestled him to the ground so fellow officers could cuff him. Garner soon began gasping for air and audibly saying, “I can’t breathe.” He went into cardiac arrest on the way to the hospital and died.
The medical examiner ruled Garner’s death a homicide, caused by “the compression of [Garner’s] chest and prone positioning during physical restraint by police.”
Garner did suffer from obesity and asthma, both potentially lessening Pantaleo’s responsibility in the eyes of the law. But a court never had a chance consider those factors — a grand jury declined to indict the officer responsible.
That means at least 16 people decided the circumstances surrounding Eric Garner’s death didn’t even warrant further investigation.
Now that a grand jury in the same state indicted Liang for Gurley’s death, the injustice against Eric Garner and his family becomes all the more clear.
While both deaths are a tragedy for all those involved, a cop getting spooked in a stairwell and firing his gun is easier to fathom than an officer forcibly choking the life out of a man pleading him to stop, especially using a maneuver his force banned more than two decades ago.
Both officers also have some level of culpability — at least enough to warrant a trial. Liang paid closer attention to texting his union reps than helping the man he shot, and Palanteo could have released his chokehold on the victim.
Additionally, it’s incredibly rare for grand juries to fail to return an indictment, as Nate Silver’s website, FiveThirtyEight, found. In 2010, the most recent year with available data, grand juries declined to indict only 11 cases out of 162,000 — or 0.0067%.
The decision in Garner’s case was hard to swallow when it happened. But now, considering the indictment against Liang, Garner and family clearly deserved a chance at justice.
By: Christina Sterbenz