Trial under way for N.Y. officer charged with shooting black man

Reuters News
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Posted: Jan 20, 2016 3:26 PM

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Jury selection began on Wednesday in the manslaughter trial of a New York City police officer who killed an unarmed black man in a darkened stairwell, Brooklyn prosecutors said.

Officer Peter Liang is also facing charges of reckless endangerment, official misconduct and other crimes for firing a single bullet inside a Brooklyn public housing building on Nov. 20, 2014.

The victim, 28-year-old Akai Gurley, was walking one floor below Liang and was struck in the chest. His death intensified protests nationwide over police use of force against minorities in cities including New York, Baltimore, Cleveland and Ferguson, Missouri.

The shooting came shortly before grand juries in Ferguson and New York declined to charge white police officers for killing unarmed black men in separate incidents, helping to fuel the "Black Lives Matter" movement.

Liang is not accused of deliberately firing at Gurley, and his lawyers have said the shooting was accidental. Liang may testify in his defense, according to his lawyers.

Prosecutors have said Liang, who had been on the job for 18 months at the time, acted recklessly by drawing his weapon. They have also accused Liang and his partner of arguing for several minutes about whether to report the shot before realizing Gurley had been hit.

Liang's partner, Shaun Landau, is expected to testify for the prosecution under an immunity agreement.

Opening statements in the trial are not expected before Monday, according to the Brooklyn district attorney's office.

(Reporting by Joseph Ax; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)