Groups Say Suspension Too Lenient For Cop Who Shot Teen | WBEZ
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Community Groups: 6-Month Suspension Way Too Lenient For Sergeant Who Shot Disabled Teen

Updated Dec. 14 at 1:12 p.m.

A coalition of community groups that won the right to help shape Chicago’s court-mandated police reform is condemning the city for allowing a sergeant to keep his job despite a city finding that he had no lawful justification for shooting a teenager with mental disabilities.

The Police Board on Thursday night voted to suspend the sergeant, Khalil Muhammad, for 180 days after he admitted it was unnecessary to shoot Ricardo “Ricky” Hayes, 18.

A statement Friday afternoon from the coalition, represented in court by the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, calls the suspension “appalling.”

“Sgt. Muhammad should have been fired,” the statement says. “He showed himself as unworthy of the public trust.”

The incident took place August 13, 2017, around 5 a.m. on a residential block of the Morgan Park neighborhood.

Muhammad, who was off duty and driving his girlfriend’s SUV, told city investigators Hayes was standing by a vehicle of the sergeant’s neighbor and looked “suspicious.”

The teen, according to the statement from the community groups, had left his South Side home and was lost.

A home security video recording released by COPA appears to show Hayes running from Muhammad.

The video shows Hayes stopping and standing still on the sidewalk facing the street as Muhammad pulls up. Hayes takes a couple tentative steps toward the vehicle, which is in the middle of the street, before Muhammad fires multiple shots.

“Instead of helping him,” the community groups say, “Sgt. Muhammad fired bullets into Ricky ... He didn’t even leave his vehicle to speak with the teenager.”

Hayes suffered a through-and-through wound to his left armpit and a graze wound to his upper left arm.

Later Muhammad called 911 and said, “The guy pulled, like he was about to pull, a gun on me, walked up to the car and I had to shoot.”

But Hayes was unarmed. His cell phone was found at the scene.

The Civilian Office of Police Accountability, the city agency that investigates shootings by officers, found Muhammad had no reason to think Hayes had committed a crime before the sergeant chased the teen and no reason to think Hayes was armed and dangerous before shooting him.

COPA concluded that Muhammad — wearing a hoodie and driving the civilian vehicle — could not reasonably expect Hayes to obey his commands because he was not obviously a cop.

Despite those findings, COPA Chief Administrator Sydney Roberts recommended that Muhammad be suspended for just three months, leading some aldermen to call for a City Council hearing about alleged pro-police bias at the agency.

But Mayor Lori Lightfoot backed Roberts and said the chief administrator understood “her job is to call balls and strikes and to make sure she is doing the right thing.”

Court filings by the Lightfoot administration in civil litigation about the shooting have denied that Muhammad reported falsely in the 911 call, denied that the video showed the shooting to be unjustified, and denied that Hayes never gave the sergeant any reason to shoot.

Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx’s office declined to bring criminal charges against the sergeant.

COPA eventually agreed with then-police Superintendent Eddie Johnson that the suspension recommendation should be doubled to 180 days.

Johnson filed the disciplinary charges in June, alleging Muhammad violated four CPD rules, including one that bars “unlawful or unnecessary use or display of a weapon.”

In October, Muhammad agreed to accept that suspension and admit he violated those rules.

The Police Board decided to forgo an evidentiary hearing and, on Thursday night, voted to approve that deal.

The groups that joined the ACLU in Friday’s statement include Communities United, the Community Renewal Society, Next Steps and ONE Northside.

“This is another prime example of why Chicago communities and residents do not trust CPD,” the statement says. “The city and the Chicago Police Board made the wrong call and we hope Ricky finds justice in court.”

Chip Mitchell reports out of WBEZ’s West Side studio about policing. WBEZ criminal justice reporter Patrick Smith contributed. Follow them at @ChipMitchell1 and @pksmid.

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