7 years after race-fueled rage in Boystown bar, cop is finally suspended

Chicago Police Officer Thomas Walsh is seen in a photo from a line-up sheet that investigators showed to witnesses while probing the November 2013 incident at Lucky Horseshoe Lounge in Boystown. | IPRA; Google

Seven years after a Black security guard accused a Chicago cop of battering him and calling him racial slurs during an off-duty incident inside a Boystown bar, the police officer has finally served a disciplinary suspension, according to a CPD spokesperson.

Officer Thomas Walsh, a veteran cop who has been assigned to the Lakeview-based Town Hall (19th) District for nearly his entire career, was suspended for 25 days during October after an arbitrator reduced his punishment from 60 days in June, records show.

The case is a prime example of the long and winding road that police discipline cases travel in Chicago. CPD’s original punishment recommendation of 60 days was levied by former Police Supt. Garry McCarthy in the summer of 2015. But Walsh exercised his right to appeal the department’s decision — a process that dragged on for more than five years.

By comparison, the police oversight agency’s investigation of the case took just 15 months complete. 

And the security guard pursued a civil suit against Walsh that was filed, litigated, settled for $300,000, and even went through appeals in less time than it took the city to resolve Walsh’s suspension grievance.

Suspension reduced

CWBChicago was first to expose the allegations against Walsh as part of a multi-part report in June 2017.

Recently, the allegations led the Center on Halsted social service agency and a Boystown business group to sever ties with a private security company that Walsh owns.

On the day after Thanksgiving 2013, Walsh and some friends headed to the Lucky Horseshoe, a bar at 3169 North Halsted in Boystown, where he had known management for at least 15 years.

At some point, a tussle broke out between Walsh’s friends and another patron. Walsh said he stepped in to separate the parties and calm them down.

As he did, one of the bar’s doormen also intervened and Walsh knocked him to the ground while unleashing a torrent of racial slurs against him. It was the first night on the job for the bouncer, James Matthews, who is Black.

Walsh subsequently claimed that he felt like someone grabbed him around the neck from behind, and he “shrugged him off.”

The bar’s security supervisor told investigators the incident seemed like a scene from a daytime talk show. Walsh “looked directly at me and spoke directly to me and said ‘get that fucking n*gger away from me,’” the supervisor recalled. “If you’ve ever seen the Jerry Springer Show….”

Walsh admitted to using the racial slurs and apologized for doing so.

Investigators at IPRA, the now-disbanded agency once responsible for investigating allegations of police misconduct in Chicago, recommended in 2015 that Walsh be suspended from the force for 20 days after investigators concluded that he repeatedly yelled the n-word as he threw Matthews to the floor.

A month later, McCarthy tripled the punishment to sixty days, records show.

Then, Walsh filed a grievance that lingered for years before finally being heard by an arbitrator in June 2019. In a 27-page report issued the same month, arbitrator Daniel Nielsen said the city failed to prove that Walsh had unjustifiable contact with Matthews. 

But Nielsen ruled that Walsh did violate three of CPD’s 55 “Rules of Conduct”:

  • Rule 2: Any action or conduct which impedes the Department’s efforts to achieve its policy and goals or brings discredit upon the department
  • Rule 8: Disrespect to or maltreatment of any person, while on or off duty
  • Rule 9: Engaging in any unjustifiable verbal or physical altercation with any person, while on or off duty.

Nielsen ordered the city to reduce Walsh’s suspension from 60 days to 25 days.

Then, the parties battled for another full year until Nielsen made his final decision in late June of this year, according to records secured by CWBChicago. And Walsh served his suspension in October, the department said.

More problems

One month after Nielsen put Walsh’s discipline case to rest in June, Walsh was handed another problem: His private security company was sued by the family of a man who was fatally shot by a Walsh Security guard outside the Bluelight bar in Roscoe Village late last year.

The suit by Mario Dingillo’s survivors, which seeks in excess of $50,000, alleges wrongful death, negligent supervision, negligent training, and infliction of emotional distress, among other counts.

And the lawsuit paints a picture of the minutes before and after Dingillo’s death that is significantly different from what authorities have told the public. We’ll tell you about that in a follow-up report.

Will you help us recover the costs of operating CWBChicago? You can make a contribution or purchase a subscription HERE.

About CWBChicago 6547 Articles
CWBChicago was created in 2013 by five residents of Wrigleyville and Boystown who had grown disheartened with inaccurate information that was being provided at local Community Policing (CAPS) meetings. Our coverage area has expanded since then to cover Lincoln Park, River North, The Loop, Uptown, and other North Side Areas. But our mission remains unchanged: To provide original public safety reporting with better context and greater detail than mainstream media outlets. Our editorial email address is news@cwbchicago.com