Partner of N.Y. police officer convicted in shooting is fired

Reuters News
Posted: Feb 12, 2016 5:50 PM

By Joseph Ax

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A New York City police officer was fired on Friday less than 24 hours after his partner was found guilty at trial for the 2014 inadvertent fatal shooting of an unarmed black man.

The terminated officer, Shaun Landau, had testified for the prosecution during the trial of his partner, Peter Liang, who was convicted of manslaughter and official misconduct in Brooklyn on Thursday.

Liang fired his gun in a darkened public housing stairwell on Nov. 20, 2014 as the two officers began a so-called "vertical patrol." The bullet ricocheted off a wall and struck Akai Gurley, 28, who had been walking one floor below with his girlfriend.

Neither officer offered medical assistance to Gurley once they realized he had been hit by the shot. Both testified that they felt unqualified to do so because of poor CPR training at the police academy.

Landau avoided criminal charges by agreeing to testify under an immunity agreement. The police department said he had been fired at the discretion of Commissioner Bill Bratton.

His termination came hours after the Gurley family released a statement calling for his dismissal. Liang was fired immediately after the jury's verdict on Thursday.

The shooting inflamed nationwide tensions over the use of police force against minorities, following a string of high-profile incidents in which officers killed unarmed black men.

Liang, who is Chinese-American, was not accused of deliberately killing Gurley.

At trial, he said he was startled by an unidentified sound as he entered the stairwell with his gun drawn, causing his finger to slip onto the trigger and fire. He tearfully described his horror when he realized minutes later that Gurley had been hit.

But prosecutors accused him of deliberately firing toward the sound and ignoring the fact that only another person could have made such a noise. They also said he acted recklessly in drawing his weapon in the first place.

Liang faces up to 15 years in prison at his sentencing in April.

(Reporting by Joseph Ax; Editing by Tom Brown)