Asian American Police Officer Charged for Fatal Shooting of Black Man Inspires Film

Peter Liang

A new film based on a 2014 case involving an Asian American police officer who fatally shot an innocent African American man while patrolling New York City is currently in post-production.

“A Shot Through The Wall,” directed by Aimee Long, premiered at the Bentonville Film Festival in Arkansas in August and is now in post-production.

 

The film is inspired by real events that took place at the Louis Heaton Pink housing complex in Brooklyn on the night of Nov. 20, 2014.

Peter Liang, a Hong Kong-born officer with the NYPD, shot Akai Gurley, 28, while on patrol with his partner Shaun Landau.

Kenny Leu as Officer Mike Tan in “A Shot Through The Wall.” Image Screenshot via Kings Road Pictures

After hearing a noise, Liang, who was on a pitch-dark stairwell, accidentally fired his weapon.

The bullet ricocheted off a wall and pierced the chest of Gurley, who was walking 14 steps below.

Family members attend the funeral for Akai Gurley at the Brown Memorial Baptist Church on Dec. 5, 2014. Image via Getty

A jury found Liang guilty of manslaughter in February 2016 and was sentenced to 15 years in jail. Two months later, Judge Danny Chun downgraded his conviction to criminally negligent homicide and sentenced him to five years probation, including 800 hours of community service.

The case quickly spurred a division between Asian Americans. Some feel that Liang, as a member of the police force, deserves to be punished — while others believe that he was only being used as a scapegoat since White officers in similar situations previously did not face charges.

Peter Liang sits in court as testimony is read back for jurors during deliberations in his trial on Feb. 10, 2016. Image via Getty

Shortly after Liang’s sentencing, people carrying “Black Lives Matter” signs gathered outside the courthouse, while those supporting him aggregated on the other side.

“We’ve seen bureaucracy, corruption and lots of shirking of responsibility that have led to Peter Liang becoming a scapegoat,” Jerry Lo, a protester from Long Island, told the National Public Radio.

 

Gurley’s supporters want to hold the police accountable. Tin Ling, from Brooklyn, felt Asians and Black people should unite for this purpose.

“I’m not saying that it’s OK for the White cops to get away. But I just think that he [Liang] did something wrong and he should be held accountable for it,” Ling told NPR.

 

“A Shot Through The Wall” essentially explores relations between Asians and Black people as racial minorities in the U.S. It stars Kenny Leu, who plays Officer Mike Tan.

Long started writing the script in 2015, around the early days of the Black Lives Matter movement. But recent events have shown how minorities can support each other, she said.

“With George Floyd, the Hmong officer brought the Peter Liang and Akai Gurley case back up as a topic,” Long told the South China Morning Post, referring to Tou Thao, the Hmong American officer present at the time of Floyd’s arrest.

“Culturally, I was always told to not ruffle any feathers, to not wash dirty laundry outside and to keep my head down,” she added, convinced that Asian Americans should now stand in solidarity with other minorities. “We can’t afford the luxury of sitting on the sidelines and just watching. What’s justice, what’s right, it’s also about the people who get left behind.”

Feature Images via Getty (left), Kings Road Pictures (right)

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