CHICAGO — Two Chicago police officers have been charged with beating a 17-year-old boy earlier this year in Woodlawn after a car chase ended in a crash, a beating prosecutors say was captured on other officers’ body cams.
Officers Jeffery Shafer and Victor Guebara have been charged with aggravated battery in the public way and official misconduct, according to the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office. Each was ordered held on $10,000 bond and to avoid contacting the teen Wednesday, but they can hold onto their gun and Firearm Owners Identification cards.
Prosecutors said the officers punched a 17-year-old as was lying on his stomach. A judge said the officers — who are Army veterans — are “exemplary citizens” who do not pose a serious risk of fleeing.
The incident happened early Jan. 10. The officers were patrolling when they saw the teenage boy driving a Chevy Camaro, Assistant State’s Attorney Kathryn Sodetz said at Wednesday’s hearing. They learned the car had been reported stolen and chased the driver.
The officers chased the teen through residential streets; at one point, the 17-year-old lost control and drove onto a sidewalk, Sodetz said. The teen also drove into the unmarked police car, T-boning it, with Shafer and Guebara inside. That crash happened as the teen was going “at a low speed,” and neither cars’ airbags deployed, Sodetz said.
Finally, the teen hit a building. He and two other teens — girls 15 and 17 — got out of the car and ran away, Sodetz said.
Other officers who had joined the chase saw the 17-year-old driver running through a vacant lot and ordered him to show his hands, Sodetz said. The teen fell to the ground and sat up with his arms above his head in the 6400 block of South Cottage Grove Avenue, Sodetz said.
Officers had the teen lay on his stomach on the ground, placed his left arm behind his back to be handcuffed and were arresting him when Shafer and Guebara got there.
As the other officer was trying to handcuff the teen, Guebara got out of his police car and punched the teen, who was still laying on his stomach, Sodetz said. The officer then walked away. The teen had his left arm behind his back and his right arm was under his chin, Sodetz said.
Shafer got out of the car and “straddled” the teen from behind, then hit his head about four times, Sodetz said. The officer pushed the teen’s face into the concrete sidewalk, and the boy moved his hands to try to protect his head and face, the prosecutor said.
The officers handcuffed the teen and Shafer pulled him to his feet. Shafer then pushed him face-first into a metal fence, Sodetz said.
The teen had a laceration on his forehead and was in pain, Sodetz said.
Shafer and Guebara didn’t active their body cameras, but other officers at the scene did and their video — as well as a nearby police camera — show the beating, Sodetz said.
A gun was found in the glovebox of the stolen car. After the arrest, Shafer and Guebara said the teen pointed the gun at them during the chase, but they did not mention the gun over the radio during the chase, did not tell assisting officers about a gun and did not say anything to the teen about one when arresting him, Sodetz said.
The teen was charged with various crimes, including aggravated assault to an officer, but the charges were dismissed in June.
Shafer’s attorney said the officer is an Army veteran who served in Afghanistan and, at one point, was named Police Officer of the Year for the 3rd District.
Shafer “was aware” the teen had a gun, the officer’s attorney said, and when he saw the teen still moving while being arrested he grew “concerned” he had the gun with him.
The Police Department’s use of force policy allows the officers’ actions, the attorney said.
“If the state doesn’t like that, it should go talk to the city of Chicago, Police Department and them change the order,” the attorney said.
Guebara’s attorney said that officer is also an Army Veteran who got a Purple Heart after being shot in Iraq. He also served in Afghanistan and, until recently, was in the National Guard, the attorney said.
“He’s never been in any trouble whatsoever” and has never had a complaint filed against him before, Guebara’s attorney said.
The teen was speeding, not going slowly, when he T-boned the officers’ car, injuring Guebara, the officer’s attorney said.
“The offender did point a gun during the incident,” the attorney said, but the chase happened “fast, in a manner of minutes.”
While the teen was being arrested, one of his arms was free, the attorney said.
“My client, with the knowledge he just saw a gun pointed at him, immediately did one mechanical strike,” the attorney said.
Judge John Lyke said the officers are “exemplary citizens” who have “served honorably” in the Army.
Prosecutors asked the judge to order the officers to surrender their guns and FOID cards, but the judge said they could keep those.
The judge set the officers’ bail at $10,000 each.
The officers, each with seven years in the Police Department, have been relieved of their police powers and could face additional disciplinary actions pending the outcome of the criminal and administrative investigations, according to the Police Department.
Supt. David Brown has previously said relieving officers of their powers is only used for more serious cases where he thinks the officers could be fired after an investigation.
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