DOWNTOWN — Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson told Mayor Lori Lightfoot he had “a couple of drinks with dinner” the night he was found asleep at the wheel of his car near his Bridgeport home, the mayor told the Chicago Sun-Times.
“He’s a grown man, he had a couple drinks at dinner, that’s what he told me,” Lightfoot told the Sun-Times’ Fran Spielman, who repeatedly pressed the mayor if Johnson had been drinking that night.
Lightfoot also said Johnson, 59, told her he was having health problems involving a change in his medication, which led him to pull over. Johnson wasn’t administered a field sobriety test when officers found him.
On Thursday, the Chicago Police Department launched an internal probe after a passerby saw Johnson asleep in his car shortly after midnight and called police.
The department’s top spokesman, Anthony Guglielmi, said Johnson himself recommended the probe. Guglielmi said the top cop had pulled over after feeling lightheaded and parked his car.
Before announcing the internal probe, Johnson called Lightfoot, a move she said she appreciated.
Lightfoot, being interviewed on “The Fran Spielman Show,” said Johnson voluntarily told her he had been drinking.
“He revealed to me that he had had a couple of drinks with dinner,” she said.
Lightfoot said she will let the investigation run its course.
“Everybody, whether it’s the superintendent or a beat patrol officer, has to abide by the rules and there’s an investigation that’s open, and we’ll see how that plays itself out,” she said.
When asked if the superintendent should have been driving after drinking at dinner, Lightfoot responded: “Well, I can’t say that. And I don’t think you can say that. But no matter what, I think we’ve got to let the investigation play itself out.”
Johnson told Lightfoot he was having some medical issues this week and was changing medication. He didn’t feel well and pulled off to the side of the street, Lightfoot said.
Asked if she believed him, the mayor said: “I have no reason to doubt — obviously we know that he’s had some medical issues. He’s on the other side of a kidney operation that is very, very serious. There have been some issues with high blood pressure and so forth,” she said. “I take him at his word, the investigation will sort out the details.”
When asked if his health may play a role in Lightfoot’s decision to keep — or replace — Johnson, Lightfoot refused to answer.
“I don’t want to speculate like that and I want to give him respect. We will see what the circumstances are,” she said. “There’s an investigation going on, we’ll see where the facts take us.”
They have not discussed whether Johnson will stay on longterm, she said.
“We will have that [talk] when the time is right,” Lightfoot said.
The incident happened at 12:30 a.m. Thursday near Johnson’s home.
Johnson “pulled over and parked his vehicle near his home after feeling lightheaded,” Guglielmi said in a statement. “A passerby called 911 and reported a person asleep at a stop sign. Responding Officers arrived at the scene, and checked on the Superintendent’s well being. Officers did not observe any signs of impairment, and the Superintendent drove himself home.”
Johnson called for the probe in the morning, he said.
“The Superintendent opened this investigation because, as he put it, ‘whether you are Police Officer or a Superintendent, all Officers ought to be held to the highest standard,’ ” Guglielmi said.
Johnson has faced multiple health issues since becoming the head of the Chicago Police Department. In 2017, he received a kidney transplant from his son after years of battling a chronic kidney disease. He fainted at a press conference that same year, an incident blamed on his blood pressure medication.
Earlier this year, doctors found a blood clot in his lung.
Police said Johnson saw his doctor Monday and Tuesday this week about a medication change. On Wednesday, he reported that he felt “exhausted.” On Thursday, Johnson again went to his doctor to be evaluated for “issues concerning his blood pressure,” police said.