Chicago Police Sgt. Christopher Liakopoulos, in a black hooded sweater holding a folder, and Officer Ruben Reynoso, on the left wearing a grey sweater, hat and face mask, are rushed into a getaway vehicle after bonding out at Cook County Jail on Sept. 16, 2022. Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago

CHICAGO — Two police officers were found not guilty on all charges for shooting an unarmed man in Pilsen last summer.

Cook County Judge Lawrence Flood, presiding over the final trial of his career, read the verdict in front of a courtroom packed with police officers and Fraternal Order of Police leaders, including union President John Catanzara, who put his arms around family members of the officers on trial.

“I find both officers acted within reason in firing their weapons under these particular circumstances,” Flood said. “The defendants acted in self-defense.”

Sgt. Christopher Liakopoulos, 43, and officer Ruben Reynoso, 42, were charged with aggravated battery with a firearm, aggravated discharge of a firearm and official misconduct following the shooting of 23-year-old Miguel Medina on July 22, 2022.

Cook County prosecutors argued the officers, stopping in an unmarked police car on their way to another part of town, shot and wounded Medina in an unprovoked act of violence on West 18th Street in Pilsen.

A teenager who was with Medina and had a gun fired shots at the officers and was grazed by a bullet, prosecutors said. The officers reported to authorities they’d been shot at first — but videotape of the incident directly contradicted that, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx said.

The two officers were relieved of their duties by the Police Department.

In the video, a man identified as 23-year-old Miguel Medina waved at the officers while holding a wine bottle and a cellphone. Credit: COPA

Flood said he did not find Medina’s testimony to be credible because Medina had been at a party throughout the night, and he was “intoxicated for two days and smoking weed” and flashing a handgun on social media before the incident.

Flood said the men approached the police officers’ car from behind in a blind spot and gave the appearance of “gangbangers.”

While approaching the car, Medina raised his hand while holding a wine bottle and cell phone, “both are dark color” and could have been a gun, Flood said.

In comments after the verdict, Foxx said Medina’s physical appearance was not a rationale for the officers to shoot.

“There’s a notion of what victims should look like,” Foxx said. “The people who live in neighborhoods and may not dress in the way that we would like for them to dress are not inherently dangerous or inherently suspicious … this man didn’t have a gun.”

Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx speaks to the press after two police officers were cleared of charges. Credit: Mack Liederman/Block Club Chicago

Gregory Kulis, an attorney for Medina, said he was “very disappointed” by the verdict and that FOP members and police officers created an “intimidating” presence in the courtroom. He also took the officers to task for not testifying.

“So the judge took certain inferences and ran with them,” Kulis said. “It’s truly just a rare occurrence when a Chicago police officer gets convicted in this county and state.”

Lawyers for Liakopoulos and Reynoso accused Foxx of targeting police officers while not charging the juvenile who fired shots back. Foxx said her office could not also charge the juvenile because the officers had given false statements.

Neither Liakopoulos nor Reynoso spoke after the verdict, but lawyers described them as “ecstatic.”

The courtroom had to be quieted before the verdict, with officers and family members erupting in cheers and tears after it was read. As officers flooded out of the courtroom, a man shouted “Kim Foxx” and flashed two thumbs down to a row of TV cameras.

Speaking to reporters after the verdict, Catanzara said he would like to see the two officers fully reinstated with backpay.

“They should have never been subjected to this process,” Catanzara said.

The union leader said the officers made “misstatements” following the “traumatic incident” and were justified to shoot the men “creeping up from behind.”

“Better they get shot, then we get shot,” Catanzara said.

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