Uh Oh: Mayor Emanuel's Administration May Have Botched Another Police Shooting Investigation

Matt Vespa
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Posted: Jan 08, 2016 12:00 PM
Uh Oh: Mayor Emanuel's Administration May Have Botched Another Police Shooting Investigation

This is quickly turning into the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad Chicago mayorship of Rahm Emanuel. Activists want him gone over what they see as an alleged cover-up regarding the shooting death of Laquan McDonald in October of 2014. The video dash cam was just released last November, which refutes the police report of the incident. McDonald was shot 16 times by Officer Jason Van Dyke, who has since been charged with first-degree murder. He entered a plea of not guilty. Yet, it seems that the Emanuel administration may have botched another police shooting that occurred four years ago that ended in the death of Darius Pinex. His family brought a wrongful death lawsuit against the officers involved, which they lost; a federal judge ruled that the shooting was justified. That was after a city attorney reportedly withheld a critical piece of evidence: a recording of the police dispatch from that night, which the city initially said did not exist (via WaPo) [emphasis mine]:

For four years, Officer Raoul Mosqueda offered the same account of the January night when he shot and killed a man during a traffic stop on Chicago’s South Side.

Mosqueda and his partner, Gildardo Sierra, heard over their police car radio that officers were looking for an Oldsmobile Aurora involved in a shooting. A gun could be inside the car, the dispatcher warned. They saw a similar vehicle and instructed it to pull over; then the officers approached the two men inside, guns drawn. There was a confrontation, the car backed up and began to drive away, and Mosqueda opened fire, killing driver Darius Pinex.

For four years, the evidence that could have verified or refuted that account — a recording of the dispatch from that night — was nowhere to be found. Attorneys for the city said the recording didn’t exist, even as a wrongful-death lawsuit brought by Pinex’s family went to trial.

Then, in late February, too late for attorneys for the Pinex family to adjust their case, it emerged that an attorney for the city had the recording after all but waited more than a week before telling the Pinex family. A federal jury ultimately found that Mosqueda and Sierra were justified in the shooting.

But on Monday, a federal judge ruled that the lawyer, senior attorney for the city Jordan Marsh, intentionally hid evidence that could have changed the outcome of the case. The Oldsmobile described by the dispatcher had a different temporary license plate number than the one driven by Pinex. And the dispatcher in the recording made no mention of a shooting or a gun in the vehicle — the reason Mosqueda gave for approaching the car with his gun drawn.

“After hiding that information, despite there being numerous times when the circumstances dictated he say something about it, Marsh said nothing and even made misleading statements to the Court when the issue arose,” U.S. District Judge Edmond Chang wrote, reversing the federal jury’s decision and calling for a new trial in the case brought by Pinex’s family.

The publication added that Marsh resigned hours after Judge Chang’s ruling for a new trial in the matter. Last September, the Chicago Tribune had a lengthy piece into the tragic incident, which involved police going off official channels in the aftermath of the shooting: 

But as investigators combed the South Side intersection for evidence, there was confusion about the dispatch the officers said they'd heard. About an hour after the shooting, their supervisor at the scene, Sgt. Jeffrey Siwek, called an emergency dispatcher over his police radio to ask why the Aurora had been wanted, court records show.

That's when a peculiar thing happened. Against protocol, the two moved the conversation off police public frequencies that are monitored and recorded.

"Do you want, um, do you want us to just call you? Would that be better?" asked the dispatcher, according to the records.

"Yeah, you ready for my number?" Siwek said.

With both on their private cellphones, the dispatcher and sergeant held two unrecorded conversations, according to court records. In court-ordered depositions earlier this year, both Siwek and the dispatcher, Mike Tracy, said they couldn't remember what they spoke about that night.

The article also showed how Judge Chang came to the conclusion that Marsh was deceiving the court. For starters, he ordered a probe into how why this part of the investigation regarding the recording was botched by bringing in Marsh, his legal team, the dispatcher, both officers in question, and all law enforcement officers (and related employees) involved in this case back for sworn depositions. The findings found that Marsh “had repeatedly deceived both [Judge] Chang and plaintiffs' attorneys [Pinex Family] at trial about when he had learned of the Zone 6 recording [the dispatch in question].”

While not directly linked to the mayor’s office, it happened under his administration and its employees. It’s an unwelcome development that only compounds the immense political pressure that’s surrounding Mayor Emanuel, who after the McDonald shooting is facing similar allegations of a cover-up and the loss of the public trust that’s imbued the rest of the Chicago Police Department. The optics on this is horrible, and only adds to a pattern of corruption and abuse that many think already occurs within city hall.