NEW YORK, Feb. 10 (UPI) -- A rookie New York police officer was indicted for manslaughter Tuesday for the fatal shooting of an unarmed man inside the stairway of a Brooklyn housing project in November.
Officer Peter Liang was indicted on one count of second-degree manslaughter in the shooting death of Akai Gurley. He was also charged with one count each of criminally negligent homicide, second degree assault and reckless endangerment, and two counts of official misconduct.
Liang pleaded not guilty to the charges Wednesday.
Should Liang be convicted, he faces up to 15 years in prison.
The shooting took place Nov. 21 when Liang and his partner Shaun Landau were sent on special overtime detail to patrol the Pink Houses housing project because of a recent spate of violent activity.
Around 11:15 p.m., the two rookie officers exited the elevator on the eighth floor to make their way to the roof via the stairs, but upon entering the eighth floor stairwell and finding it pitch black, the lights out for weeks according to residents, Liang unholstered his weapon.
Moments later, 28-year-old Gurley entered from the seventh floor with his girlfriend and a startled Liang discharged one round from his weapon without warning, striking Gurley in the chest from approximately 10 feet away, sending his body tumbling down two flights to the fifth floor landing.
NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton at the time described the incident as an "accidental discharge."
The shooting happened just days before a Staten Island grand jury declined to indict NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo for the chokehold death of Eric Garner. The lack of an indictment for Pantaleo and Ferguson, Mo., officer Darren Wilson for the shooting of Michael Brown sparked weeks of protests across the country.
JC Sevcik contributed to this report.