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A Chicago police officer at fatal traffic stop in Humboldt Park last month.

A Chicago police officer at fatal traffic stop in Humboldt Park last month.

Watchdog chief questions whether Chicago cops lied about why they stopped Dexter Reed before killing him in exchange of gunfire

The head of Chicago’s Civilian Office of Police Accountability has questioned whether a group of cops lied about why they pulled over a man in Humboldt Park last month, setting off a gun battle that wounded one of the officers and killed the driver.

In a letter to Police Supt. Larry Snelling, COPA Chief Administrator Andrea Kersten also raised “grave concerns about the officers’ ability to assess what is a necessary, reasonable, and proportional use of deadly force.”

The letter was sent last week, days before COPA released video showing that the officers fired roughly 96 shots in just 41 seconds after the driver, Dexter Reed, shot one of them in the wrist during the March 21 traffic stop in Humboldt Park.

Five tactical officers from the Harrison District had pulled over Reed’s heavily-tinted GMC Terrain, which was apparently parked in a crosswalk in the 3800 block of West Ferdinand Street.

Body-worn camera footage released by COPA Tuesday shows that Reed, 26, resisted orders to roll down his car windows and open the door. As officers shouted at him, Reed opened fire and struck one of the officers in the hand, COPA said.

The four other officers returned fire, with one of them firing three times as Reed lay “motionless on the ground,” according to Kersten’s April 1 letter. That officer alone fired “at least 50 times.”

In her letter, Kersten urges Snelling to strip the four officers of their policing powers while raising serious alarms about their actions and their account of the deadly stop.

While COPA had initially been informed that Reed was stopped due to a seat belt violation, Kersten noted “the available evidence calls into question the veracity of this account.”

“Specifically, COPA is uncertain how the officers could have seen this seat belt violation given their location relative to [Reed’s] vehicle and the dark tints on [Reed’s] windows,” Kersten wrote. “This evidence raises serious concerns about the validity of the traffic stop that led to the officers’ encounter with [Reed].”

Kersten also hammered on the high number of rounds fired by the four officers, three of whom reloaded. She insisted there were “serious questions about the proportionality of their use of deadly force.”

Kersten specifically highlighted the fact that all four officers continued to fire at Reed “after he exited his vehicle and was unarmed,” singling out the officer who fired three shots at Reed when he was already on the ground.

In a footnote to the letter, Kersten noted that COPA has another open investigation into a traffic stop involving the same officers less than a month earlier. That investigation also relates to an alleged seat belt violation, Kersten added.

Hours after the video was released Tuesday, Reed’s family criticized the police officers for approaching his car too aggressively, possibly scaring him into defending himself. “My insides are burning up,” Reed’s mother Nicole Banks said outside COPA’s offices Tuesday. “They didn’t have to do him like that.”

Roosevelt Banks, Reed’s uncle, criticized police for continuing to fire after Reed got out of his SUV. “That is nothing than plain murder,” he said.

Mayor Brandon Johnson called the footage “deeply disturbing,” but walked a fine line between mourning Reed and offering prayers for the wounded cop. Johnson told reporters at City Hall that he met with the officer on the night of the shooting and has since visited with Reed’s family.

“I know this footage is extremely painful and traumatic for many of our city’s residents,” Johnson said. “It would be especially difficult for those of us living in communities where the events depicted occur all too often. As mayor and as a father raising a family, including two Black boys on the West Side of Chicago, I’m personally devastated to see yet another young Black man lose his life during an interaction with the police.”

‘Open the door now’

Body-worn camera footage of the traffic stop shows officers hopping out of an unmarked vehicle and approaching Reed’s GMC Terrain, parked over a crosswalk behind the police vehicle. Reed briefly rolls his window down as directed, then begins rolling it back up.

“Open the door now,” an officer shouts while pulling on the handle.

Video from a home surveillance camera appears to show plumes of smoke coming from inside the SUV as gunshots are heard. An officer who was standing by the passenger side window was struck in the hand and is seen falling backward.

As officers fire their guns, some duck for cover and begin calling for help over the police radio.

Amid the gunfire, Reed is seen walking around the back of his SUV before he’s apparently struck repeatedly and falls to the ground. Reed, who was unarmed by this time, is seen lying in the street as officers continue to fire several final shots.

“Don’t f---ing move,” one officer says as she approaches him. “F---, f---, f---, f---, f---, f---, f---. Don’t move!”

As another officer walks alongside the bullet-riddled GMC, he reports that Reed’s gun was left on a seat.

Officers are seen tending to the wounded officer and another cop who says he’s “freaking out.” An officer recording the video has a clear message for them: “Don’t say anything, you hear me? Be quiet.”

The body camera footage shows Reed lying unresponsive as officers search for a gun and place handcuffs on him. With a flood of police cars responding to the scene, officers are shown performing chest compressions on Reed as he lies in a pool of blood.

The wounded officer, who didn’t fire his weapon, is shown on video walking up to the passenger side of Reed’s SUV and can be heard ordering Reed to roll down his window as officers on the other side of the SUV shout similar commands.

The officer appears to grab hold of the passenger door handle when he cries out and pulls away from the door, turning and stumbling on the grass of the parkway. Holding his left arm limp at his side and clutching his radio in his right, the officer stumbles across a side yard, gasping.

Blood drips from his arm as he jogs across the street, taking up a vantage point about 50 feet behind Reed’s vehicle, as shots ring out over and over, according to the video.

Mayor Brandon Johnson speaks at City Hall news conference Tuesday after release of video of fatal traffic stop last month.

Mayor Brandon Johnson speaks at City Hall news conference Tuesday after release of video of fatal traffic stop last month.

Anthony Vazquez

In Tuesday’s statement, COPA said its investigators have “provided briefings to the Cook County state’s attorney’s office, the FBI, the Department of Justice and sent a formal request to Supt. Larry Snelling recommending the Chicago Police Department relieve four officers of their police powers during the pendency of this investigation.”

Johnson said the officers had been placed on leave for 30 days but appeared to caution against making judgments before all the facts are gathered.

“Shooting a police officer can never be condoned, never excused,” he added. “I will never stand for that, and neither will the city of Chicago. We also have to be very clear that we hold our police to the highest of standards.”

Call for independent investigation

Johnson was joined by COPA Chief Administrator Andrea Kersten and Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, who said her office was “in the very beginning stages” of reviewing the shooting for potential criminal charges.

“We understand the great public interest in transparency and accountability, especially when deadly force is used and a life is taken,” Foxx said. “For the family of Dexter Reed, the wounded officer and the officers involved in this incident, we must ensure that the process is transparent, fair and thorough.”

Kim Foxx speaking behind podium at press conference with Brandon Johnson and ASL interpreter on stage

Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx speaks during a press conference at City Hall to address the Chicago police shooting of Dexter Reed, Tuesday, April 9, 2024. Reed, 26, was stopped in the 3800 block of West Ferdinand in Humboldt Park by police officers when a confrontation led to officers firing at Reed.

Anthony Vazquez

Chicago Police Supt. Larry Snelling was notably absent from the news conference. On Monday night, he spoke at a community meeting at police headquarters and said the videos of the shooting had been mischaracterized.

“I know that you can make your own decisions when you look at that video,” Snelling said, “but it’s not the things that you’ve been told.”

Before the video was released, West Side faith leaders on Tuesday called for an independent investigation beyond the one being conducted by the police oversight agency. The Rev. Ira Acree, one of several faith leaders who signed the letter, suggested the investigation be conducted by the attorney general or federal government.

“People still have these ugly images of the 16 shots and a cover-up that was associated with Laquan McDonald,” Acree said of the teenager killed by Jason Van Dyke, the former Chicago cop who was convicted of second-degree murder in the 2014 shooting that spurred a federal court order mandating sweeping departmental changes.

“I believe to build trust with police, you have to have an independent investigation that’s a little removed from these people who are friends who know each other,” Acree added.

At least one member of the City Council said he believes the shooting was justified.

Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd), chairman of the City Council’s Public Safety Committee, said he’s been told the 26-year-old Reed fired 11 shots through his car window in what Hopkins called “an attempt to kill police officers.” An empty gun was recovered at the scene, Hopkins said.

“If we’re going to allow criminals to use deadly force without fear of deadly force being returned, what will that do to society?” Hopkins asked. “He fired 11 rounds at these police officers before he was eventually killed. Period. What more do you need to talk about?”

Nicole Banks speaking to reporters with family standing behind her

Flanked by family members, attorneys and supporters, Dexter Reed’s mother, Nicole Banks, speaks to reporters outside the headquarters for the Civilian Office of Police Accountability in West Town, Tuesday, April 9, 2024. Reed, 26, was shot to death March 21 during a traffic stop by Chicago police.

Ashlee Rezin

Reed’s family viewed footage of the shooting Monday afternoon with their attorney Andrew Stroth, whose civil rights firm has sued the city over other police shootings.

Reed’s uncle said police acted in a way that would have terrified him if he was in the same situation.

“I wouldn’t know how to act other than to protect myself,” Roosevelt Banks said.

Reed’s father said he talked with Johnson on Sunday and asked that the officers be held accountable. Dexter Reed Sr. also criticized how police approached the car.

“It wasn’t the proper protocol,” he said. “First of all, the way they came to the car, aggressive and using profanity, and he rolled his window down. And the other officer came on the side... My son was probably scared.”

Appearing with Reed’s family was Sheila Bedi, a professor at the Northwestern School of Law and director of the Community Justice and Civil Rights Clinic who also said the officers’ were too aggressive.

“Every single thing every single police officer did in this encounter escalated it over and over,” she said. “From coming out of the car with their guns out, to screaming commands, brandishing their weapons by the window, it escalated over and over again.”

The family’s lawyer, Andrew Stroth, said it’s still unclear if Reed fired shots from within the car, noting that the state police are continuing to investigate ballistics.

“Was there a gun recovered in his car? Yes. But is there confirmation of shots? We don’t know yet. But either way, he came out of the car unarmed,” Stroth said, adding that he believes Foxx should seek “a criminal indictment against some of these officers.”

Reed’s mother said her son had bought the SUV just three days before the shooting. “He said, ‘Mom, I’m going for a ride.’ And they killed him. They killed him,” Nicole Banks said, crying.

She described her son as “a good kid. He played basketball. He always had something to do every day.”

Reed played basketball and helped lead Westinghouse High School to the regional championship. Reed also played basketball at Morton College, where he earned an Associate’s degree, Stroth said. Reed’s goal was to be a sports broadcaster, he said

A standout basketball player who recently faced arrests

Reed, known as “Dex,” was remembered by his coaches as a team leader. Westinghouse head coach Rafie Fields, an assistant coach during Reed’s playing career, said he was “stunned and in disbelief” after learning of the shooting.

“What happened is very unfortunate,” Fields told the Sun-Times. “A lot of people are affected, of course Dexter’s family, as well as the Chicago police officer’s family and the Chicago police officers themselves. ... It’s just an unfortunate situation [for] everyone involved.”

Prior to the shooting, Reed had been arrested twice in a matter of months and was awaiting trial in a pending gun case, according to Cook County court records.

He was first arrested on April 20, 2023, after allegedly walking out of the Saks Fifth Avenue along the Magnificent Mile while wearing a $950 shirt he hadn’t paid for, according to an arrest report. He was charged with a misdemeanor count of retail theft that was soon tossed out.

Then on July 13, 2023, he was arrested again when officers allegedly found him carrying a loaded handgun while entering the Windy City Smokeout music festival outside the United Center, an arrest report states. He had no concealed carry license, and his firearm owners identification card had been revoked.

After initially being charged with a felony count of unlawful use of a weapon, he was indicted on additional gun-related felonies, court records show. That case was pending when he was shot and killed.

Reed had previously worked for Monterrey Security, a politically connected firm with deep ties to the Chicago Police Department.

Monterrey’s top staff includes former high-ranking Chicago police officials Anthony Riccio, Bob Klich and Hiram Grau, who was also the director of the Illinois State Police. Fred Waller, a key adviser to Snelling who also served as interim superintendent, previously worked as Monterrey’s director of strategic initiatives.

Reed worked a range of assignments for Monterrey between May and December of 2019, most recently guarding Credit Union 1 Arena, formerly the UIC Pavilion. He was ultimately fired for “attendance issues,” Monterrey spokesman Steve Patterson said.

Reed’s visitation and funeral were last week.

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