CHICAGO — A police watchdog has released video of officers shooting two men in a case in Pilsen that led to felony charges for the officers.
Sgt. Christopher Liakopoulos, 43, and officer Ruben Reynoso, 42, have been charged with aggravated battery with a firearm, aggravated discharge of a firearm and official misconduct in relation to the July 22 shooting, which took place in the 1000 block of West 18th Street.
Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx said the officers shot and wounded a 23-year-old man in an unprovoked act of violence, and another person was grazed by a bullet. The officers falsely told authorities they’d been shot at first, Foxx said. Supt. David Brown told the public the same shortly after the shooting.
But videotape of the incident directly contradicts that, and neither of the wounded people fired shots at the officers, Foxx said.
The officers’ lawyers have disputed that, with attorney Brian Sexton, who represents Reynoso, saying at a hearing last week the officer only fired shots after someone walked up to the car with a gun and pointed it at the officers.
The officers’ attorneys tried to stop the Civilian Office of Police Accountability from releasing video of the shooting, asking a judge to block its release. But the police watchdog agency released the video Tuesday.
The video, which is silent, shows the officers stop their unmarked car in the middle of 18th Street as several people walk on the sidewalk nearby.
The officers then reverse to be closer to a man in a white sweatshirt and a person in a black T-shirt. The two people walk into the street, closer to the car.
The person in the black T-shirt takes a step back and then turns around and runs away, while the man in the white sweatshirt holds up an empty hand and slightly waves his other hand.
Prosecutors said the man in the sweatshirt was holding a wine bottle and cellphone in one hand and nothing in the other, and he held up his hands to show officers what he had. The person in the black T-shirt was wearing a satchel with a gun, Foxx said.
The video then shows the man in the sweatshirt fall to the ground after being shot, with one officer pointing his gun out the car window. The officers get out of the car and shoot down the street as the person in the black T-shirt runs away.
The person running from officers fired shots at them, Assistant State’s Attorney Alyssa Janicki said last week. The officers, shooting back, instead hit a person walking by, causing a graze wound to his leg, Janicki said.
The video shows one of the officers running down the street while the other remains by the car.
The wounded man lies in the street as drivers pass near him, and the officer who remained by the car does not help him. Someone on the sidewalk goes up to the wounded man and leans down by him before walking away.
The second officer returns to the car, and more police arrive and help the wounded man.
WARNING: GRAPHIC VIDEO:
Foxx said the officers shot first in an unprovoked act of violence.
“It is our position based on the facts, the evidence and the law that the officers involved in this incident did not have provocation or justification to shoot the unarmed victim during this incident,” Foxx said. “The evidence does not support the use of deadly force … and was not lawful.”
But Sexton, the attorney representing Reynoso, said it’s unclear who shot first.
Sexton also disputed allegations the officers lied to investigators about what happened. He said Reynoso talked to investigators the next day — after having gone to the hospital for health issues — and said he didn’t recall whether he shot in the car or not.
After Reynoso watched the surveillance footage, he again said he didn’t remember, Sexton said.
“There’s a whole body of science … that says when you have a traumatic, stressful event like this, you’re not going to remember things right away,” Sexton said. “This whole thing about contradicting or lying, that’s completely false. It’s not true at all.”