CHICAGO (AP) — A retired judge has released dashboard camera video from a Chicago Police car that shows a white officer repeatedly firing his handgun into a car full of black youths who had been pulled over for speeding and posed no apparent threat.
The judge, who handled a criminal trial of one of the teens, released the December 2013 video as the department has been offering assurances about police conduct while refusing to turn over dash-cam videos itself.
Two teenagers were injured in the shooting and left lying, handcuffed and bleeding, in the street with no apparent effort to get them urgent medical treatment. Their families, who sued the city in federal court, allege officers forcibly removed them later from a hospital while they still were recovering and put them through lengthy questioning even though one was crying out in pain and the other was bleeding so profusely he had to be taken back to the hospital.
The city and police department got a judge to issue a protective order to keep the video from being released by any parties to the civil case, which resulted in a $360,000 settlement.
But that did not prohibit former Cook County Judge Andrew Berman from releasing the video, which had been introduced as evidence in the trial he handled of one of the teens. The boy was acquitted of possession of a stolen vehicle and misdemeanor criminal trespass to a vehicle.
Berman said he felt obligated to make the video public and gave it to The Chicago Reporter magazine, which first reported on it Thursday (http://bit.ly/1BldEnv ). The retired judge told The Associated Press "it just showed a reckless and callous disregard for human life by somebody who is sworn to serve and protect."
"No one knows for sure, but my strong gut feeling is that these shots never would have been fired if the kids in the car were white," Berman said.
The shooting, one of hundreds in a city struggling with violence, drew little attention at the time. But the release of the video has placed it among the growing number of instances of questionable police conduct against African Americans nationwide.
The officer, identified in court papers as Marco Proano, arrived on the scene after another patrol car already had stopped the vehicle, and his dash-cam video shows a scene that appears to be under control.
Proano then gets out of his vehicle with his handgun raised and pointed at the car, which reverses up the street and away from the officers.
Proano fires multiple times — more than a dozen, according to the families' attorney — as the car skids sideways and hits a street light.
The car, which officers say they spotted speeding, turned out to be stolen. Police say a weapon was recovered at the scene, though the families' attorney, Timothy Fiscella, says it was a pellet gun and was never visible or brandished at the officers.
A police statement at the time also said the officer opened fire out of fear that the "occupants who had been in the vehicle were in a position to sustain great bodily harm."
The civil suit brought by the teens' families says Proano fired "without provocation, cause or justification of any kind."
One of the teens was struck in the shoulder. Two other bullets grazed his forehead and cheek. The other injured teen was shot in his hip and heel.
Proano, who admits firing the shots but denies the suit's claims of excessive force and constitutional rights violations, was moved to desk duty during an investigation by the Independent Police Review Authority, which remains ongoing. His attorneys did not respond to requests for comment.
Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy said last month that the force has taken steps to lesson tension with the community and that there's been a drop in officer-involved shootings in recent years.