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NYPD officer Peter Liang has been convicted of manslaughter for fatally shooting an unarmed black man in a darkened stairwell.

Peter Liang, 28, could face up to 15 years in prison for killing 28-year-old Akai Gurley in 2014.

Advocates for police accountability have closely watched the case because US police officers who injure or kill civilians rarely face criminal charges.

Akai Gurley’s death came amid several high-profile cases in which officers killed unarmed black men.

The deaths of black men, such as Eric Garner in New York and Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, sparked protests across the US.

Authorities declined to bring charges against the officers involved in those cases.Officer Peter Liang Akai Gurley death

The officer’s supporters have said Peter Liang, who is Chinese American, is being made a scapegoat for previous injustices. His defense team said the shooting was an accident, not a crime.

However, prosecutors said Peter Liang, a newly recruited officer, handled his weapon recklessly and did little to help Akai Gurley after he was shot.

“Instead of shining a light, he pointed his gun and shot Akai Gurley,” prosecutor Joe Alexis said in his closing argument.

Peter Liang testified that he was patrolling a stairwell inside a public housing complex in Brooklyn when he was startled by a sound and fired his weapon by mistake.

The bullet ricocheted off the wall and hit Akai Gurley, who was standing on a lower floor.

“I was panicking. I was shocked and in disbelief that someone was hit,” said Peter Liang who wept during his testimony.

NYPD Officer Peter Liang has been charged over the fatal shooting of Akai Gurley in a block of flats in New York City, according to a lawyer in the case.

Scott Rynecki told the Associated Press that Officer Peter Liang had been charged by a grand jury in the death of the unarmed black man.

When grand juries declined to charge officers over the deaths of other black men, there were nationwide protests.Akai Gurley killed by NYPD officer Peter Liang

After Akai Gurley’s death in November, police said it was an accident.

Scott Rynecki is the lawyer for Akai Gurley’s partner.

She and Akai Gurley opened the door into the dark stairwell when the police officer was patrolling the flats on November 20.

Police say Peter Liang fired without a word and apparently by accident.

Unnamed officials involved in the case told media on February 10 there would be charges but it is not clear what they will be.

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