Chicago’s police oversight agency has exonerated a cop who was accused of using excessive force as he and other officers broke up a brawl following the 2018 Pride Parade. Part of the incident was captured on video that spread widely on social media at the time.
The Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA) recently concluded that Officer Brandon Dewitt’s actions at the scene were “lawful and proper” and “within Department policy,” the agency’s Chief of Investigative Operations, Andrea Kersten, wrote in a summary report.
Kersten also said the woman who filed the complaint against Dewitt made some allegations that were “inconsistent with 3rd party video footage.”
COPA launched its investigation after CWBChicago broke news of the allegations.
When the incident unfolded around 9:30 p.m. on June 24, 2018, Dewitt and other officers were in their fifth hour of trying to maintain order along Belmont Avenue where large, lingering crowds sparked a series of fights following the parade.
That’s when passersby directed Dewitt’s team to a large brawl outside Big City Tap, 1010 West Belmont, according to a CPD report.
As officers approached, they saw 18-year-old Breah Bedford striking the bar’s owner with “what appeared to be a long white metal object,” according to CPD’s documentation. The bar’s owner was holding Bedford’s friend, 20-year-old Simone Jones, to the ground at the time, police said.
Dewitt “grabbed [Bedford’s] arms and pulled her away, resulting in [her] falling to the ground and having a seizure,” Kersten said in COPA’s summary report.
But when Bedford complained to COPA, she alleged that Dewitt “without provocation cuffed his arm around her neck and slammed her to the ground…According to [Bedford], she was not trying to fight anyone,” Kersten wrote.
Bedford’s “statement is inconsistent with 3rd party video footage, which captures [her] swinging at another individual when Officer Dewitt initiated contact with [her],” COPA concluded.
The “long white metal object” that police allegedly saw Bedford using to strike the bar’s manager was “actually plastic beads,” the agency concluded. But during a deposition, Bedford claimed that she used her cloth bra to hit the manager, according to COPA.
“When confronted with the video showing her striking [the manager] with an object in her hand, [Bedford] said she did not know what the object was,” Kersten wrote.
Kersten also said Bedford refused to identify other people who were in her group “citing that the information was confidential.”
Bedford “described a history of non-epileptic seizures” during her COPA deposition, according to the agency.
“While [Bedford] denied being an active participant in the fight, 3rd party video footage depicts [her] actively engaging in a fight and Officer Dewitt’s subsequent use of force [was] to separate her from the person she was striking,” Kersten concluded.
Both Bedford and Jones were found not guilty of misdemeanor battery during bench trials by Judge Anthony Calabrese in December 2018.
Meanwhile, a lawsuit that Bedford and Jones filed last year against Dewitt, five other cops, the city, Big City Tap, and the bar’s owner is making its way through federal court.