The Civilian Office of Police Accountability released video Tuesday showing two Chicago police officers wearing plain clothes and in an unmarked vehicle shoot a 23-year-old man in Pilsen, resulting in both officers being hit with felony charges.
Sgt. Christopher Liakopoulos, 43, who has been with the Department since 2001, and Officer Ruben Reynoso, 42, who has worked at CPD since 2003, were charged last week with aggravated battery and official misconduct after the July 22 shooting.
After the shooting, police Superintendent David Brown initially told reporters that after one officer identified himself to the group outside the closed business, one of the people in the group pulled out a handgun, sparking an exchange of gunfire.
Last Friday, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx announced the charges against the officers at a news conference, and said video of the shooting contradicted the officers’ statements of events. Cook County Associate Judge Maryam Ahmad had set $25,000 bonds for both during a hearing Friday afternoon, and they both were released the same day.
The video shows the two officers, who were heading to the Chicago Police Training Academy, happen upon a group of people standing outside a closed business just before 7 a.m. in the 1000 block of West 18th Street.
The surveillance video — which has no audio — shows the 23-year-old, who is wearing a white hoodie and holding a bottle of wine and a phone in one hand, walk toward the officers’ vehicle, waving toward them with his empty hand. Suddenly, the man falls to the ground, and then the two officers exit the vehicle and appear to fire shots toward a juvenile, who had run out of view of the video.
The 23-year-old continues to lie in the street as cars pass by him and one of the officers can be seen still standing in the street. Neither of the officers appear to render aid as he lies on the ground for several minutes until additional officers and emergency services arrive.
COPA said in a news release that it has additional video that shows the juvenile shooting a gun toward the officers after the officers shot the 23-year-old man, but the agency is prohibited from publicly releasing the video that involve juvenile subjects.
In court last Friday, Brian Sexton, the attorney on behalf of Reynoso, said, “It’s not clear who fired first” based on the surveillance video, but that it didn’t matter because the footage does show the juvenile had a gun in his hand.
Although, in the surveillance video released Tuesday, a gun does not appear to be visible in the juvenile’s hand until after the 23-year-old is lying on the ground and the juvenile is running away from the officers and the scene.
Sexton had said Reynoso was in the front passenger seat of the car when he believed “some gang members” were tagging the door of a closed business on his right side. He showed the group his badge and told them to “knock it off” when surveillance footage apparently shows the 23-year-old and the juvenile walking toward the car and the 23-year-old “make a gesture like pointing,” Sexton said.
“This all happened within two seconds,” Sexton said. “My client saw the juvenile gunman come up with the gun from the satchel bag and pointed toward that. He immediately withdrew his holster, and he fired one shot in the car.”
It is not clear in the surveillance video that the officers showed anyone their badges before opening fire and it also does not appear that the men were tagging a business door.
“When he had a chance to look at the video, he talked to the state’s attorney, we did a proffer, we talked to COPA, and he said, ‘Yeah, I see the video, I just don’t remember it, but I shot once when I was in,’ so this whole thing about contradicting or lying, that’s completely false,” Sexton said.
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Tim Grace, attorney for Liakopoulos, adopted part of Sexton’s argument on behalf of Liakopoulos and added that the defendants were “on-duty police officers who are confronted with armed assailants who points the gun at them and eventually fires at them.”
The released surveillance video does not clearly show anyone pointing a gun toward the officers at any point during the exchange. Although, the surveillance video does not show the juvenile firing shots at the officers following the 23-year-old being shot.
Grace referenced Graham v. Connor, a U.S. Supreme Court case about seeing police officers’ actions as “objectively reasonable,” he said.
“We don’t use 20/20 hindsight,” Grace said. “We don’t second-guess. We don’t slow down videos like the Cook County state’s attorney’s office does, and that’s what the eventual trial judge will do.”
Both officers have been relieved of their police powers.