Update March 1, 2022 — Prosecutors dropped all charges against Christopher Hillas after a grand jury refused to indict him.
A Chicago police officer punched a handcuffed man four times in the groin while helping arrest him for allegedly shooting at other cops on Christmas Eve, prosecutors said as they announced charges against the officer Thursday.
But the cop’s defense attorney said the officer mistakenly believed the detained man had struck him in the head.
Christopher Hillas, 43, is charged with aggravated battery in a public place and official misconduct, both felonies.
“Upon learning of the incident, the Department relieved the officer of his police powers on December 31, 2021, and it was referred to COPA,” CPD said in a written statement Thursday. COPA, the Chicago Office of Police Accountability, investigates police shootings and other complaints.
At 10:45 p.m. on Christmas Eve, Chicago police officers watching a CHA video feed allegedly saw Nokomis Jefferson repeatedly taking a gun out of his waistband as cars passed him on the 1300 block of West Hastings.
Jefferson allegedly shot toward responding officers, and the cops returned fire, striking Jefferson. Cops found him standing in the 12th District police station parking lot with his hands on a car.
Hillas, who was preparing to start his shift, was sitting in his personal car in the lot, talking to his mother on the phone when the shooting began nearby, according to defense attorney Tim Grace.
As other officers brought Jefferson toward a squad car, Hillas opened the vehicle’s rear door and began patting Jefferson down from his waist to his feet, Assistant State’s Attorney Lynn McCarthy said.
After completing the search, Hillas “stood up slightly” and punched Jefferson, who was handcuffed, four times in the groin, she alleged. Jefferson had not threatened Hillas verbally or physically, McCarthy said.
Other officers pulled Hillas away from Jefferson. Hillas walked away, then turned back toward Jefferson until other cops stopped him, she said. The incident was captured on multiple police body cameras.
Grace painted a different picture and said Hillas freely explained what happened to prosecutors: As he was standing back up after searching Jefferson, Hillas headbutted another officer. But Grace said that Hillas thought Jefferson had struck him or hit him with a knee.
Hillas has been a Chicago police officer since December 2016, he grew up in Hoffman Estates, and previously served in the Coast Guard, according to Grace.
Judge Maryam Ahmad set bail at $10,000 and, against Grace’s objections, ordered Hillas to surrender his firearms license.
Grace urged Ahmad to reconsider her decision, saying that Hillas had already turned over his weapons, but CPD would put him in no-pay status if he did not have a firearms license. Ahmad stood by her order.
In December, Jefferson was charged with two counts of attempted first-degree murder and being a felon in possession of a weapon in connection with the incident that preceded his arrest. He was on bond for a felony gun case at the time and has been linked to guns and violence in the city since at least 2013.