Chicago Police Officer Cleared In Shooting Used Unregistered Gun

chicago police car FILE
Arvell Doresy Jr / Flickr
chicago police car FILE
Arvell Doresy Jr / Flickr

Chicago Police Officer Cleared In Shooting Used Unregistered Gun

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Court records indicate that the off-duty officer at the center of the 2016 fatal shooting of Joshua Beal in Chicago’s Mt. Greenwood neighborhood is facing possible suspension for other actions related to the shooting.

Investigators with the Civilian Office of Police Accountability concluded that off-duty officer Joseph Treacy and off-duty sergeant Thomas Derouin acted within department policy when they shot Beal. The investigation found that Beal was raising a gun when the officers opened fire.

However, court records reveal that a separate investigation by the agency found that Treacy acted improperly leading up the shooting, and that a 90-day suspension has been recommended. The records also indicate that Treacy violated policy when he shot Beal with a firearm he had failed to register with the police department.

Beal was shot and killed in November 2016 after leaving a funeral. His shooting sparked protests and outcry from activists and family members.

A civil lawsuit brought by Beal’s fiancee, Ashley Phifer, claims the entire confrontation started when Treacy got out of his car and pointed his gun at Beal and others while shouting obscenities and racial slurs. Treacy was off-duty and the lawsuit claims Beal did not know that Treacy was a police officer. The civil complaint alleges that Beal only drew his weapon out of fear of Treacy.

Beal, according to the lawsuit, legally owned his gun. Court records indicate that Treacy was brandishing an unregistered handgun.

Attorneys for Treacy and Derouin did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The investigation by the Civilian Office of Police Accountability, or COPA, makes clear the initial conflict leading up to the shooting was divided along racial lines, between black motorists and the mostly-white residents of Mt. Greenwood.

“COPA acknowledges that this incident emanates from a racially-tinged confrontation between people who live in the neighborhood where it occurred and people who were merely driving through it,” the summary report reads. “COPA’s analysis is limited to the lawfulness of the involved officers’ actions.”

By that standard, the agency concluded that the officers acted within the law and department policy when they fired their weapons.

Ephraim Eaddy, the spokesman for the Civilian Office of Police Accountability, said the agency conducted a separate investigation looking into other allegations against Treacy aside from the decision to fire his weapon.

That investigation has been completed and turned over to Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson for review.

Eaddy would not comment on the results of the investigation, but he did confirm that findings are only turned over to the police department when an officer has been found at fault.

The transcript from a June 6 hearing in the civil case indicates that Treacy was found to have brandished his weapon unnecessarily.

In that hearing, Judge Daniel Gillespie, apparently reading from documents turned over by the city said from the bench “this has worked its way through the system, so now somebody in COPA … or CPD has recommended that he, Treacy, be suspended for 90 days.”

Later in the hearing, Gillespie said from the bench that Treacy’s weapon was “apparently” unregistered, according to the transcript, to which city attorney Brian Gainer replied “right.”

Gainer laid out for the judge the scope of that second investigation, it includes the allegations that Treacy displayed his weapon unnecessarily, that he yelled racial slurs and that he used an unregistered firearm.

Attorney Blake Horwitz, who is representing Phifer, told the judge the investigation is “related to the unnecessary brandishing of a weapon,” according to the transcript.

“So our case is all about — that’s what our complaint says. Basically it’s a willful and wanton count, you brought the gun out, you created a lot of danger,” Horwitz said according to the transcript.

A spokesman for the police department did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the story.

Patrick Smith is a reporter on WBEZ’s Criminal Justice desk. Follow him @pksmid. WBEZ’s Alyssa Edes produced this interview for broadcast. Follow her @alyssaedes.