Chicago mayoral candidates Toni Preckwinkle and Lori Lightfoot say the recommended discipline for a police officer who shot and injured an unarmed, black teenager with a disability appears to be insufficient. The Civilian Office of Police Accountability found Chicago Police Sgt. Khalil Muhammad had no reason to think the teenager, Ricardo Hayes, had committed a crime and yet the officer pursued him and shot him twice. COPA determined that the shooting was unjustified, but recommended keeping Muhammad on the force.
Lightfoot said she has not read the whole report but said it was shocking that the recommendation was for suspension. She said it appears to be the type of case in which the officer should be terminated.
“When people hear that a shooting was unjustified, under these kinds of circumstances, and a six-month suspension, instead of termination, is given, it has the potential to undermine the legitimacy of the police reform efforts that are still very much underway,” said Lightfoot.
COPA initially recommended a 90-day suspension for Muhammad. Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson suggested a six-month suspension instead, and COPA agreed. The next step is for the case to go to the Police Board for a final decision on officer discipline.
Preckwinkle also said that the recommended discipline appears insufficient. In addition, she said the allegations from another police sergeant, who said he was pressured to cover up details of the shooting, showed the continued existence of a code of silence.
“We are still waiting for a thorough reform of the Chicago Police Department and the superintendent must be a leader in these efforts,” said Preckwinkle.
Chicago Police Sgt. Isaac Lambert is suing the city because he claims when he refused to find the shooting justified, police department bosses gave him a less desirable work assignment as retaliation.
The union that represents Chicago police sergeants did not return a request for comment.
Shannon Heffernan is a criminal justice reporter for WBEZ. Find her at @Shannon_h.