Former New York Police Department Officer Peter Liang apologized Thursday morning to the domestic partner of Akai Gurley, whom he shot and killed in a Brooklyn housing project in November 2014.
The five-minute meeting took place between Liang and Kimberly Ballinger at the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office around 10:45 a.m, according to Paul Shechtman, Liang’s attorney, and Scott Rynecki, who represents Ballinger in a wrongful death lawsuit. Rynecki told NBC News that Liang’s defense team approached him about a month ago to see if Liang could meet with Ballinger.
“Peter’s principal word was to say he is sorry and that this was the last thing in the world he could have imagined,” Schectman told NBC News.
Liang’s apology Thursday comes just one day after Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson announced he would recommend that the former officer receive no jail time when sentenced on April 14 in State Supreme Court in Brooklyn. Instead, Thompson is asking for five years probation, six months of home confinement with electronic monitoring, and 500 hours of community service.
Liang, 28, was convicted of second-degree manslaughter and official misconduct on Feb. 11. The former rookie officer and his partner, former Officer Shaun Landau, were conducting a vertical patrol of an unlit stairwell at the Louis H. Pink Houses in East New York when Liang’s gun, which was drawn, went off.
The bullet, fired from the eighth floor, ricocheted off a cement wall, striking Gurley who had entered with his friend Melissa Butler from the floor below. Butler tried resuscitating the 28 year old, who collapsed on the fifth-floor landing, based on instructions relayed to her through a neighbor who spoke by phone with an emergency medical dispatcher.
Rynecki said Ballinger wanted Liang to know that because of the shooting, her daughter no longer had a father, and she no longer had a partner.
“Liang, on a number of occasions, expressed his sorrow and remorse,” Rynecki said.
He added that Ballinger did not go to the meeting with the intention of accepting Liang’s apology. Rynecki also said they will push ahead with Ballinger’s wrongful death lawsuit, which she filed in May against Liang, Landau, the NYPD, and the New York City Housing Authority.
After news Wednesday of Thompson’s sentencing recommendation to Justice Danny Chun, the Gurley family said in a statement that they were outraged and said Liang should serve time in prison.
"This sentencing recommendation sends the message that police officers who kill people should not face serious consequences," the statement reads. "It is this on-going pattern of a severe lack of accountability for officers that unjustly kill and brutalize New Yorkers that allows the violence to continue."
Cathy Dang, executive director of CAAAV Organizing Asian Communities, whose organization has supported the Gurley family since the shooting, also expressed disappointment over the recommendation of no jail time.
"Today, [Thompson] just reinforced that we can continue to lose faith in our justice system that does wrong by all families who lose their family members to police violence," Dang said.
But Phil Gim, who helped organize a Feb. 20 Brooklyn rally in support of Liang, welcomed the sentencing recommendation.
“The initial reaction is, of course, it's a relief for Peter and his family that probably, with the DA's recommendation, he will not have any jail time," Gim told NBC News.