PILSEN — Pilsen’s alderman said he’s “disappointed” but “not surprised” by a newly released video that shows two Chicago police officers shoot an unarmed man in the neighborhood.
Sgt. Christopher Liakopoulos, 43, and officer Ruben Reynoso, 42, were charged last week with aggravated battery with a firearm, aggravated discharge of a firearm and official misconduct after the July 22 shooting in the 1000 block of West 18th Street.
State’s Attorney Kim Foxx said Friday the officers shot and wounded the 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 video of the shooting 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.
Video of the shooting was released Tuesday by the Civilian Office of Police Accountability, a watchdog agency investigating the shooting.
A neighbor named Sean, who heard the shooting and saw the aftermath out his window, told Block Club he didn’t realize police officers were involved until the incident was over because the officers were not in uniform and were in an unmarked car. Their version of the shooting doesn’t “add up,” he said.
Sean, who asked that only his first name be used, rushed down to the street to check on the person who’d been shot, he said.
“You could hear him screaming, and I saw nobody doing anything,” Sean said. “After hearing that, there was no question I needed to act.”
In the video released this week, Sean can be seen running to the victim with his hands up, he said. He told officers he was bringing first aid to help the wounded man, he said.
Only after watching the video this week did Sean realize the officers reached for their guns when he came up, he said.
“That gives me pause,” Sean said. “I dream of a day we see massive and holistic police reform.”
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 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.
Tanya Lozano, a prominent community organizer in Pilsen, said she was “deeply disturbed” watching the video.
Lozano, who’s running for a seat on the city’s first civilian-led police oversight board, said it’s more important than ever to have comprehensive conversations about police accountability and investment in Black and Brown communities.
“That’s why this commission is going to be so important,” Lozano said. “The culture [inside the Police Department] has to change. We can’t even get them to follow their rules now.”
Lozano said it seems to her like officers in the department are “locked up” inside their own culture and don’t make lasting relationships with communities to foster mutual respect. This breeds fear toward the police, especially among youth, Lozano said.
Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez (25th), who represents the area, said he was “deeply disappointed” but “not surprised” when he heard about what led up to the shooting.
Sigcho-Lopez has been a vocal advocate for police accountability and social justice, supporting calls for the city to invest in violence prevention and intervention programs to keep communities safe.
“The worst type of violence is a state violence,” Sigcho-Lopez said. “When an institution that is called to serve and protect our constituents is now involved in an incident, when they have not been honest, they have lied on record, when they have not been responsible with the duties that they are entrusted with, I think it is important we understand that we have a much larger issue here.”
A Pilsen resident and community activist who goes by the nickname The Kid From Pilsen said it was difficult for him to watch the video and see a 23-year-old get shot.
“It’s pretty upsetting that the badge is not with integrity,” The Kid said. “If the police officer stepped out of his vehicle and actually had a conversation with the guys, maybe this would have been a different thing. But no … just straight to the gun.”
Having police officers develop relationships with the community or, better yet, be from the community would help, The Kid said. He said just noting what the young man who shot was wearing — a white hoodie, black shorts and white sneakers — made him think of people in his life and worry about them.
“I’m looking at my brother, like, he wears those same type of things. I wear those same type of things,” The Kid said. “I don’t want to see this again. It gets numbing. But I don’t want to be a guy who gets shot in the end by a cop.”