After a well-attended rally to protest the conviction of former NYPD officer Peter Liang – convicted of manslaughter after firing his gun inside the stairwell of an East New York housing project and fatally striking 28-year-old Akai Gurley – made headlines all over New York, one Manhattan-based attorney is setting out to help the ex-cop from Bensonhurst set up a legal defense fund.
The pro-bono legal services were announced at a press conference on Friday, February 26, and according to Gary Park, the attorney representing the Liang family, the defense fund was created to accept, manage and disburse funds on Liang’s behalf.
“My law firm, in conjunction with Peter’s family, will act as co-trustees of the special legal defense fund to ensure that the donations collected for Peter Liang are protected and used solely for the benefit of Peter and his future well-being,” Park said in a statement. “My law firm’s role as a trustee will continue indefinitely until all the funds collected are disbursed for the benefit of Peter.”
Public opinion on Liang’s second-degree manslaughter and official misconduct conviction has been split.
Liang supporters maintain that the bullet fired from his gun that day in November of 2014, ricocheted off of a stairwell wall and struck Akai Gurley, making the fatal shooting an “accident.” Court testimony also has Liang saying that “he had been startled by a noise and flinched, inadvertently causing the gun to go off.”
However, according to District Attorney Ken Thompson, evidence established that Gurley was both innocent and unarmed at the time of the shooting and that Liang was not under any threat that should have caused him to discharge his weapon.
Evidence also showed that after the shooting, Liang failed to report the incidentimmediately , contrary to the NYPD Patrol Guide. Instead, the defendant argued with his partner about who would radio in the incident and later failed to render any medical aid – also in violation of the Patrol Guide.
“On behalf of Peter Liang, I would like to thank members of the community and all public support,” said Spokesperson for Liang, Christine Leung.