Again. Another cop shooting. Another dead unarmed black man. But a different grand jury outcome.
Rookie New York City police Officer Peter Liang, who killed 28-year-old Akai Gurley in the stairwell of a dangerous East New York housing project, has been indicted.
Liang reportedly will be charged Wednesday with a top count of second-degree manslaughter, a case likely to inflame the city. Within hours of the Nov. 20 shooting, NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton called it an accident. But a Brooklyn grand jury that examined the evidence saw the potential for criminal culpability. The charge suggests Liang may have acted recklessly or grossly deviated from a reasonable standard of conduct.
Liang's indictment is likely to reignite passions that cleaved the city after Eric Garner died in July in Staten Island. Garner gasped, "I can't breathe," as an officer trying to take him into custody on suspicion of selling loose cigarettes applied what appeared to be a banned chokehold as others piled on. A Staten Island grand jury's decision not to indict Officer Daniel Pantaleo in December touched off protests that roiled the city for weeks. Things went from bad to worse Dec. 20 when a black man thought to be deranged assassinated two New York City officers as they sat in their patrol car; he then turned his gun on himself.
It's impossible to know why one grand jury decided to charge Liang while another decided not to charge Pantaleo. Grand juries hear evidence and deliberate in secret.
Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donovan, who presented the Pantaleo case, has so far managed to repel efforts by New York City Public Advocate Letitia James and others to have the transcript of that grand jury proceeding unsealed.
At least with Liang, the facts will now come out in an open court. That will help members of the public decide whether Gurley's death was a tragic accident or a crime.
Transparency alone won't heal the rift between blacks and police. But it should help everyone accept the eventual outcome of this one case. That's a start.