2 Chicago Police officers face felony charges related to July shooting of unarmed man

2 Chicago Police officers face felony charges related to July shooting of unarmed man



CNN

Two Chicago police officers have been charged with three felony offenses each in connection with an on-duty shooting of an unarmed man in July, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx said Friday.

The case against them turned on video surveillance that contradicted their statements to investigators about the incident in Pilsen, in the city’s Lower West Side.

Sgt. Christopher Liakopoulos, 43, and Officer Ruben Reynoso, 42, are each charged with aggravated battery with a firearm, the aggravated discharge of a firearm, and official misconduct, which are felonies punishable by up to 30 years in prison, Foxx said.

Liakopoulos and Reynoso, who have been relieved of their police powers, turned themselves in Thursday evening, Foxx said. They appeared at a bail hearing Friday and were ordered to pay a $25,000 bond and surrender their weapons, according to Foxx.

The man who was shot didn’t have a weapon, nor did he fire a weapon at the two officers, Foxx said.

According to Foxx, the 23-year-old victim suffered injuries and “has since recovered and is cooperating with authorities.”

The victim, Miguel Medina, on Friday filed a federal lawsuit against Liakopoulos and the city of Chicago.

His attorney, Gregory Kulis, said outside court that his client is “clearly innocent” of a crime. Medina was not a threat to officers when he was shot twice in the back and once in a leg, he said. The four-count complaint was filed against the officer they believe shot Medina, he said.

Kulis said his client was taken to the hospital for his wounds, but within a few hours police took him to question him. After he was released without charges, the attorney said, Medina was in pain and bleeding and returned to the hospital.

The Chicago city government did not respond to CNN’s request for comment on Medina’s lawsuit.

During their investigation, the Cook County state’s attorney office looked at surveillance video “and, based on that review of all of the evidence including that video, it is our position based on the facts, the evidence, and the law, that the officers involved in this incident did not have provocation or justification to shoot the unarmed victim during this incident,” Foxx said.

Statements the two made to investigators were “directly contradicted” by the videotape evidence. According to the state’s attorney, the video, which has not been released publicly, shows the officers firing their weapons before taking return fire.

After the bail hearing, Assistant State’s Attorney Alyssa Janicki read the prosecution’s statement filed with the court to reporters. Prosecutors say the two officers were in an unmarked car and headed to a police training course on the morning of July 22 when they saw a group of men walking. They stopped to ask them what they were doing outside a business that was closed, Janicki said. Earlier, Foxx said neither officer was wearing a body worn camera at the time.

Medina and a juvenile walked toward the police vehicle, she said, noting that the juvenile “wore a satchel crisscrossed across his body, which contained a firearm.” As they approached the defendants’ vehicle, the juvenile held onto the firearm. The victim, Medina, had a cellphone and a wine bottle in one hand and the other was empty. At some point the juvenile turned around and ran away while Medina continued to walk to the car, Janicki said.

When Medina reached the passenger’s side, he waved at the officers with his empty hand and displayed the cellphone and wine bottle in the other.

Then, the officers both fired “multiple shots” in Medina’s direction from inside the vehicle, striking him in the back and the leg. Medina fell to the ground.

The juvenile continued running across the street and then fired at the officers who responded by discharging their weapons, Janicki said.

A pedestrian suffered a graze wound in the leg during the incident, she said.

The officers were interviewed after the Chicago police department contacted her office seeking charges against the juvenile, Janicki said.

During the first interview, the officers told detectives they fired their weapons only after “they were fired upon by the juvenile.” In a second interview, they told a detective and an assistant state’s attorney they said they didn’t know who shot first but said the juvenile was pointing the gun at them before the gunfire started.

But several days after the shooting, Janicki said her office received surveillance video which contradicted what the defendants told the detectives. The video revealed that when “the defendants discharged their weapons at the victim, the victim was standing in the street near the open passenger window of the defendants’ vehicle with both of his hands visible, one hand empty and the other holding the cell phone and the wine bottle,” Janicki said, who added that the juvenile was seen running away from the vehicle.

Reynoso’s attorney Brian Sexton argued at the bail hearing it was unclear from the video that the officers fired first, according to CNN affiliate WBBM. CNN has reached out to Sexton and Liakopoulos’ attorney, Timothy Grace, for comment.

“The Cook County State’s Attorney’s office is committed to justice and fairness and that’s what brings us here today. We do not take this great responsibility lightly, nor do we celebrate in the charging of police officers,” Foxx said. “We support the hard working men and women of the Chicago Police Department, who like many law enforcement partners across Cook County, face dangers every day to keep us safe.”

“With regard to this particular case, we cannot ignore or stand by acts of unprovoked violence even at the hands of those who are sworn to serve and protect our communities,” Foxx added.

The two officers are members of the Chicago Police Department’s major accidents investigations unit. Liakopoulos has been with the department since 2001 and Reynoso has worked for the agency since 2003.

CNN reached out to the Chicago Police Department, which confirmed the officers have been relieved of police powers but didn’t comment on the specifics of the case.

In a video posted to YouTube, John Catanzara Jr., president of the Fraternal Order of Police Chicago Lodge 7 said, “Two of our officers were indicted by Kim Foxx for doing their job. An active gun battle with an armed offender, and they engaged him and fired rounds.” Catanzara did not respond to multiple requests for comment from CNN Friday.

Chicago’s Civilian Office of Police Accountability is also reviewing the incident. It is expected to publicly release the videos of the shooting next week. The officers’ attorneys have asked a judge to stop that video release, WBBM reported.

According to Foxx, the investigation related to the juvenile’s involvement is ongoing.

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