By COLLEEN LONG
NEW YORK (AP) – A former New York City police officer convicted of accidentally shooting an unarmed man in the stairwell of a public housing building apologized on March 25 to the man’s domestic partner.
Peter Liang met with Kimberly Ballinger at a mutually agreed upon conference room at the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office. Liang expressed remorse over the death of 28-year-old Akai Gurley.
“He said he was so sorry for her loss, and he told her how devastating it was for him. This was the last thing he ever intended or could imagine,” said his attorney Paul Shechtman.
Ballinger’s attorney, Scott Rynecki, said Ballinger, in turn, talked about her loss.
“She let him know that because of his actions, she now has a 3-year-old girl who doesn’t have a father,” Rynecki said. “Her life is upside down now, she has no partner. She told him the man he killed was a good man, and a good father.”
The meeting was brief and somber, both attorneys said. Liang didn’t try to explain his actions the night of the shooting in a stairwell at the Louis Pink Houses. Ballinger agreed to meet with Liang after about a month of asking by his legal team. She agreed because she wanted to tell him directly of the grief he caused, her lawyer said.
“This was not to accept an apology. This was to talk about what she is missing,” Rynecki said.
The only participants were Ballinger, Liang, and their lawyers. They chose the conference room as a neutral site and a place that would meet safety concerns for Liang.
The meeting came a day after District Attorney Kenneth Thompson said he would not recommend jail time for Liang, convicted by a jury of manslaughter.
Thompson said he would recommend, instead, five years’ probation, six months of home confinement, and 500 hours of community service.
Gurley’s aunt and other activists gathered outside the prosecutor’s office March 25 to protest the decision, demanding steep jail time for Liang and saying they felt betrayed by the prosecutor. A judge will decide if any jail time is warranted at Liang’s April 14 sentencing.
Liang’s attorney praised the decision by the prosecutors.
“We steadfastly believe in Peter Liang’s innocence,” Shechtman said. “The shooting that occurred that day was an accident, not a crime.”
Liang was fired after the verdict. His partner, who was at the scene but not charged, was also fired.