The Chicago agency that investigates police shootings levied a 90-day suspension against Officer Joseph Treacy for using an unregistered handgun in an off-duty, “racially tinged confrontation,” in which he shot and killed Joshua Beal, a 25-year-old African American father of two according to documents obtained by WBEZ.
Those records also show that police officials tried to have Treacy’s suspension reduced from 90 days to three.
Last June, the Civilian Office of Police Accountability, or COPA, released its findings that Treacy and off-duty Sgt. Thomas Derouin were justified in shooting Beal because Beal was raising a gun when the officers opened fire.
At the time, the agency said it was conducting a separate investigation into other elements of the incident besides the decision to shoot. WBEZ has obtained a copy of the summary report and supporting documents from that “companion investigation,” which found no wrongdoing by the officers beyond Treacy’s failure to register the gun he used in the killing.
Attorney Blake Horwitz, who represents Beal’s fiancee, and the mother of Beal’s two children, Ashley Phifer, said the investigation was half-hearted and designed to exonerate the officers.
“What’s clear is that their investigation is … not real, it’s not truly investigating things, it’s [using[ a broad brush so that people think that everything’s OK in a scenario that a lot of people are interested in,” Horwitz said. “Many people are watching this and they’re just sweeping it under the rug.”
Beal was killed during a fight between white residents of the Mount Greenwood neighborhood and black motorists leaving a funeral. The shooting sparked protests and counter-protests mostly divided along racial lines.
As first reported by WBEZ, Treacy shot Beal with a gun that he had failed to register with the Chicago Police Department as required by police policy.
The newly released report shows that Treacy admitted he knew he was required to register the gun but failed to do so. Treacy told investigators he hadn’t registered the gun with the department because “he had only recently started carrying” it, but court records show Treacy purchased the Glock semi-automatic pistol more than two years before the November 2016 shooting.
In those same court records, Treacy admitted that he owned another seven unregistered guns, including an AR-15 assault rifle.
The COPA report makes no mention of the seven other guns Treacy failed to register with the Police Department. COPA spokesman Ephraim Eaddy said the failure to register those other weapons did not fall under the agency’s jurisdiction because they were not linked to the shooting.
City records show that COPA Chief Administrator Sydney Roberts recommended that Treacy be suspended for 90 days for failing to register the handgun he used in the Beal shooting, but then-police Superintendent Eddie Johnson disagreed.
In a letter to COPA, Johnson wrote that a three-day suspension “is more consistent with other” penalties handed down to officers who failed to register their firearms.
Eaddy said COPA insisted on the 90-day suspension and CPD ultimately agreed to the punishment for Treacy. A police spokesman said Treacy is currently on leave from the department and is appealing the suspension.
COPA investigated three other allegations related to Treacy’s conduct in the moments leading up to Beal’s death, but did not sustain any of them.
The agency “exonerated” Treacy of the allegation that he unlawfully and unnecessarily pointed his gun at people during the confrontation.
Cell-phone video of the incident released by the city shows Treacy pointing his gun at a group of people as he moves toward them, and then pointing the gun in a woman’s face. In the video, Treacy can be heard shouting “get the f*** back,” and something that sounds like “I’m the f***ing police.”
Investigators determined that Treacy was reasonable in drawing and pointing his weapon at the crowd because a man was being physically attacked, “the scene was chaotic, and if the violence had escalated, Officer Treacy may reasonably have had to use deadly force.”
City investigators heard from several witnesses who described racial slurs and other racist language being shouted during the confrontation, including one witness who claimed Treacy called someone a “black b****.” However, the agency concluded that there was not sufficient evidence to determine whether Treacy himself used racist language.
Investigators also did not sustain the allegation that Treacy initiated the confrontation by recklessly cutting off the funeral party and then screaming at the other drivers.
Horwitz said Phifer’s lawsuit has uncovered “substantial evidence” that Treacy initiated the conflict “by engaging in very horrific racial comments that are directed at African Americans.”
He said he could not go into further detail because of a court order limiting public statements about the case.
Attorneys for Treacy did not respond to a request for comment, but Treacy denied using racial slurs or initiating the conflict, according to the report.