ENGLEWOOD — A traffic stop that may have otherwise resulted in Jerome Halsey getting a ticket or a warning escalated to attempted murder charges after Halsey opened fire on three uniformed police officers, hitting one, prosecutors said Tuesday.
But a defense attorney argued the Englewood shooting unfolded because Halsey did not realize he was being pursued by police officers, and it was not clear if the officers activated the emergency lights on their unmarked SUV before boxing him into an alley and approaching him with their guns unholstered.
Halsey, 27, is charged with attempted first-degree murder, aggravated battery and aggravated assault after prosecutors say he shot a Chicago police officer Sunday afternoon in Englewood, the second cop from that district shot within a week.
Halsey, who also was shot during the confrontation, did not attend a bond hearing Tuesday because he is still hospitalized at Advocate Christ Medical Center being treated for wounds to his left chest and right thigh, officials said. Cook County Judge Charles Beach ordered him held on $1 million bond, saying Halsey’s showed a “certain disregard for the sanctity of life” but he did not want to deny bail until Halsey could appear in court.
The shooting occurred around 2 p.m. Sunday in the 6900 block of South Sangamon Street, Supt. David Brown said.
Three uniformed 7th district police officers on patrol in an unmarked SUV began following Halsey after seeing through the squad car’s side mirror that his “brake lights were not working,” prosecutors and police said.
After making a U-turn to “get behind the defendant’s car,” the officers followed Halsey as he “turned into an alley and continued to drive at a high rate of speed” before turning onto Sangamon, prosecutors said.
The officers watched Halsey’s car swerve “from the driving lane into the parking lane” as he drove down Sangamon before cornering himself in a dead-end alley, prosecutors said. Halsey then attempted to back out of the alley but was blocked by the police, prosecutors said.
The officers got out of their SUV with their weapons unholstered “due to the defendant’s behavior,” prosecutors said. One officer approached Halsey’s car on the driver’s side “with his left hand up” and his gun in the other, but prosecutors said the officer was not holding his weapon “in any sort of threatening manner.” The other two officers approached the car on the passenger’s side, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors said video shows Halsey “turn his head” to “look through the window” on the driver’s side before opening the door and firing directly at the officer standing “within feet” of his car.
“His intent is clear at that point,” prosecutors said.
The wounded officer “staggered backwards” and was “able to fire back at the defendant as he was running for cover to his car,” prosecutors said. The other two officers also shot at Halsey, prosecutors said.
Halsey got out of his car and aimed his gun at the other officers “and fires again” before “he’s struck and goes down,” the prosecution said.
The wounded officer’s partners drove him to University of Chicago Medical Center where he is recovering in “serious but stable” condition. Police and prosecutors said the shooting was captured on body camera and nearby surveillance cameras.
The Civilian Office of Police Accountability is investigating, as is standard with police shootings.
Halsey’s defense attorney said his client acted in self defense and feared for his safety when the unmarked police SUV cornered him in the alley. The attorney also said it was not clear why police pulled Halsey over, or whether officers activated emergency lights on their car while pursuing him.
“The state argues that there were traffic offenses, but we haven’t heard what exactly those traffic offenses are,” the defense attorney said. “The police report does state erratic driving, that is not a criminal charge or a traffic violation that I’m aware of.”
The attorney also questioned the officers’ claim they spotted the tail lights on Halsey’s car not working through their side mirror.
“If my client wasn’t aware these are police officers, but just an SUV of three people occupying it, following him into an alley, getting out of their car with weapons drawn, I would argue that the proof is not evident, the presumption is not great that any actions performed by my client were without legal justification,” Halsey’s attorney said.
Prosecutors said that contradicts video showing Halsey looking through his car window at the uniformed officer approaching him before shooting. Halsey also made statements to authorities he knew the car following him was a police car, prosecutors said.
“He claims that the police were stopping him for no reason. That is not the case,” prosecutors said.
The judge sided with prosecutors, saying “erratic driving in itself” is sufficient reason for police to pull someone over and he “cannot in any way understand this as an act of self defense” because Halsey got out of “his vehicle firing his weapon.”
“There is no way Mr. Halsey mistook these three individuals for anyone other than Chicago police officers,” the judge said. “These officers were in uniform when they exited this SUV. Particularly, [one officer] came within two feet of Mr. Halsey inside his vehicle when he began shooting.”
Officers recovered a 9-millimeter gun at the scene and a bag with two extended magazines, police and prosecutors said.
“This court has expressed before, and I will express again, that extended magazines, in some places, do not have a purpose,” the judge said. “One would wonder why an individual carrying in a concealed carry fashion would need not only the magazine in their weapon, but two additional extended magazines at that time.”
Halsey is due back in court June 13.
Subscribe to Block Club Chicago, an independent, 501(c)(3), journalist-run newsroom. Every dime we make funds reporting from Chicago’s neighborhoods.