NYPD cop breaks down on stand in Akai Gurley case

A police officer took the stand Monday to give his account of the deadly shooting of an unarmed man in a darkened stairwell of a public housing complex, but had to take a break after breaking into tears

Officer Peter Liang is charged with manslaughter in the 2014 death of Akai Gurley in the Louis Pink Houses in Brooklyn.

Liang began by describing what are called "vertical patrols" in stairwells. He noted that public housing stairways can be sites of crime and danger.

Investigators say Liang was holding his flashlight and his gun when he fired a single round in a pitch black stairwell. The bullet ricocheted and hit Gurley a flight below.

The defense says the fatal shooting was an accident, not a crime, and has argued that the officer didn't know at first that the bullet had ricocheted off a wall before striking the Gurley, 28.

But prosecutors say Liang handled his weapon recklessly, and they sought to use the testimony of his partner to show that the defendant, even after realizing he'd shot an innocent man, did almost nothing to help him.

The Liang trial is being closely watched by advocates for police accountability, who see it as a counterpoint to decisions by grand juries declining to indict white police officers in other killings of unarmed black men, including those of Eric Garner on Staten Island and Michael Brown in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson.

Liang is Chinese-American; Gurley was black.

Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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