NYPD Officer Pleads Not Guilty After Rare Indictment for Killing Unarmed Black Man

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Black Agenda Report’s Glen Ford says the #blacklivesmatter movement is pressuring the political system to hold police accountable for unlawful deaths and brutality

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Story Transcript

JAISAL NOOR, TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Jaisal Noor in Baltimore.

On Wednesday, an NYPD officer pled not guilty to killing an unarmed black man the day after a New York grand jury made the rare and unusual move of indicting the officer, Peter Liang, in the fatal shooting of 28-year-old Akai Gurley. The officer was released without bail, despite facing charges, including manslaughter and assault. And he could face more than 15 years in prison if convicted.

Now joining us from Plainfield, New Jersey, is Glen Ford. Glen is the cofounder and executive editor of the Black Agenda Report.

Thanks so much for joining us again, Glen.

GLEN FORD, EXEC. EDITOR, BLACK AGENDA REPORT: Thank you for having me.

NOOR: So, Glen, let’s start with your initial reaction to this news that this NYPD officer was indicted for killing an unarmed black man.

FORD: Well, we’re always surprised when a cop is indicted for killing a black person under any circumstances. The young cop shot Akai Gurley on a darkened stairway in the pink homes that’s in East New York in Brooklyn.

The victim was simply walking with his girlfriend into that same darkened stairwell when the cop shot him. And he shot him for no good reason. And I say that again: for no good reason. And that’s why New York’s police commissioner, Bill Bratton, who is a champion of cops, called the shooting an unfortunate accident and said that a Akai Gurley, the victim, was totally innocent.

The cop was a rookie. He’d only been on the force for 18 months. And he’s an Asian American.

The cops were doing what they call vertical patrols. That’s when they go to the top of the building and then work their way down. They do that so that they can catch people without folks knowing that they’re in the building. Public housing tenants have sued the police repeatedly, and sometimes with success, charging that the police overpolice the housing projects, that people are stopped in housing projects at a rate of twice as much as folks who live in neighborhoods surrounding the housing projects, neighborhoods that are often high-crime areas themselves. Residents charge that they are forced to live in what are really very tall prisons and are given tickets and stopped for trespassing, for being in their own buildings.

But mainly the response has been pleasant surprise that a cop has been indicted for shooting the young man. That’s especially true after a Staten Island grand jury refused to indict the cop who choked to death Eric Garner.

Some of the public does seem to feel sorry for the young police officer. But there have been published reports that while Akai Gurley lay bleeding to death, the young cop and his older partner spent spent six minutes texting. They were texting their union representatives, presumably to see what kind of exposure they might have for this killing.

NOOR: And you mentioned the killing of an unarmed black man in Staten Island. That, along with the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, helped launch this Black Lives Matter movement across the country. Do you think this officer would have been indicted if that movement had not spread and kind of caught fire around the nation over the past several months?

FORD: Well, that would be totally speculation, but I consider it informed speculation. And most folks in the movement share my speculative conclusion that, no, there would not have been this kind of indictment, certainly not for manslaughter, possibly some kind of interdepartmental chastisement, but nothing this serious. The movement creates the environment for a little bit of justice to intervene sometimes, maybe.

NOOR: And, of course, they’ve raised the conversation of the killing of unarmed black men, which, as the report, as the 28 hours report put out–and that was several years ago now–. So that type of knowledge is common in the alternative movements, but they’ve succeeded in entering this into mainstream discussion and informing people that might be sitting on that grand jury.

FORD: That’s right. You know, crimes that are committed with impunity tend to fade into the background. After all, if there’s not going to be any punishment for a crime, then maybe it’s really not a crime at all. So when there is a hue and cry that impunity cease, we could expect that more of these crimes will be discovered, that is, the public will be more sensitive to the atrocity.

NOOR: Well, Glen Ford, we’re going to leave it there, but we’re going to keep following this story. Thank you so much for joining us.

FORD: Thank you.

NOOR: Thank you for joining us at The Real News Network.

End

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