Chicago Police Sergeant Says He Was Punished For Refusing To Help Cover Up Shooting

Bill Healy/WBEZ
Bill Healy/WBEZ

Chicago Police Sergeant Says He Was Punished For Refusing To Help Cover Up Shooting

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Updated 5:55 p.m.

A Chicago police sergeant is suing the Police Department, claiming his superiors pressured him to help cover up the truth of a 2017 shooting and retaliated against him when he refused to do so.

Sgt. Isaac Lambert filed a whistleblower lawsuit against the city Monday, centered around the 2017 police shooting of 18-year-old Ricardo Hayes.

Hayes was shot twice and wounded by off-duty police Sgt. Khalil Muhammad around 5 a.m. on Aug. 13, 2017, on the far South Side of Chicago.

In a 911 call following the shooting, Muhammad can be heard telling a call-taker “the guy pulled, like he was about to pull a gun on me, walked up to the car and I had to shoot.”

However, Hayes was unarmed. In a report Muhammad describes Hayes as having an “unknown dark object” that Muhammad perceived to be a gun.

A video released by Chicago’s Civilian Office of Police Accountability appears to show Hayes running from Muhammad, who was driving his personal vehicle. Hayes can be seen stopping and facing the street as Muhammad pulls up and seems to say something to Hayes before firing multiple shots.

In his lawsuit, Lambert claims “the video reveals that the shooting was not justified and that [Hayes] never did anything to threaten Muhammad or give him any reason to shoot.”

Lambert says he was working as a detective sergeant when the shooting occurred and was tasked with investigating the incident. In his lawsuit he claims that “efforts were made by high-ranking officials in the Chicago Police Department to mischaracterize the findings of the investigation and change some of the conclusions” in the report on the shooting.

“The effort was made to make the shooting of Ricardo Hayes by Khalil Muhammad appear to be justified, when in fact it was not,” the lawsuit reads.

Lambert says he refused to go along with orders that he classify Muhammad as a “victim” and the incident as an “aggravated assault” by Hayes.

According to the lawsuit, Lambert was then removed from the detective division and placed in the patrol division, which he says was punishment for not participating in a cover up.

A spokesman for the Chicago Police Department declined to comment, citing the pending litigation.

Lambert has hired the Hamilton Law Office to represent him. Those are the same attorneys who won a $2.8 million verdict for former Independent Police Review Authority investigator Lorenzo Davis in a similar whistleblower lawsuit.

Patrick Smith is a reporter on WBEZ’s Criminal Justice desk. Follow him @pksmid.