Chicago Is Set To Pay $2.25M For The Unjustified Shooting Of An Unarmed Teen With Disabilities

COPA screengrab
A home security camera records Ricardo Hayes, 18, standing on a South Side sidewalk moments before Chicago Police Sgt. Khalil Muhammad shot him in 2017. Video still / Chicago's Civilian Office of Police Accountability
COPA screengrab
A home security camera records Ricardo Hayes, 18, standing on a South Side sidewalk moments before Chicago Police Sgt. Khalil Muhammad shot him in 2017. Video still / Chicago's Civilian Office of Police Accountability

Chicago Is Set To Pay $2.25M For The Unjustified Shooting Of An Unarmed Teen With Disabilities

The city of Chicago is preparing to pay more than $2 million to settle a lawsuit over a 2017 police shooting in which an off-duty officer wounded an unarmed teen with mental disabilities.

The City Council’s finance committee is scheduled to vote Monday on the $2.25 million payout for Ricardo Hayes, who was chased down and shot by Sgt. Khalil Muhammad. The settlement was reached in January of this year, but still needs to be approved by the City Council.

Muhammad was given a six-month suspension for the shooting, but was allowed to keep his job despite admitting he had no legal justification for shooting Hayes.

When the Chicago Police Board voted on the punishment in December, Hayes’ attorney Gabriel Hardy said the suspension was far too lenient.

“We’re very disappointed that an officer who used deadly force on an unarmed, handicapped teenager who wasn’t doing anything wrong would get this slap on the wrist instead of termination,” Hardy said.

Chicago’s Civilian Office of Police Accountability, which investigates shootings by officers, found that 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.

The shooting took place Aug. 13, 2017, around 5 a.m. on a residential block of the Morgan Park neighborhood, according to city records. Muhammad, who was off duty and sitting in the driver’s seat of his girlfriend’s SUV, told investigators he feared for his life.

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

Hayes suffered a gunshot 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.

The police board, which is in charge of meting out punishment for serious misconduct, decided to forgo an evidentiary hearing in the case after Muhammad pleaded guilty to using deadly force “without lawful justification” and “without a reasonable belief that such force was necessary when he fired one or more shots” at Hayes. The board failed to review key evidence in the case before approving the unpaid suspension.

A different sergeant, Isaac Lambert, brought a whistleblower lawsuit last year, claiming he was demoted for refusing to help cover up for Muhammad.

That lawsuit is still pending.

Chip Mitchell contributed reporting for this story.

Patrick Smith is a reporter on WBEZ’s Criminal Justice Desk. Follow him @pksmid. Email him at psmith@wbez.org.