Days after prosecutors charged Chicago cops with shooting an unarmed man, city releases video of the incident

A frame from video released by the Chicago Office of Police Accountability shows a Chicago police officer extending his gun from an unmarked car moments before shooting the man in the white hoodie. | COPA

Chicago’s police oversight agency, COPA, released video on Tuesday that shows CPD officers shooting an unarmed man in Pilsen this summer.

The city released the video days after prosecutors charged the two officers involved in the shooting with multiple felonies, including official misconduct for allegedly misleading investigators about what happened during the incident.

Efforts by the officers’ defense team to have the video embargoed pending trial failed in a hearing before Judge Mary Marbuio on Monday.

You can view the full video, as well as other materials released by COPA, at this link.

Prosecutors on Friday said Sgt. Christopher Liakopolous and Officer Ruben Reynoso of CPD’s Major Accident Investigations Unit were driving in an unmarked car to a training session when they came upon three men standing near some closed businesses near 18th and Morgan around 7 a.m. on July 22.

Liakopolous stopped the car, backed up to the men, and asked what they were doing, prosecutor Alyssa Janicki said.

While talking with the group, a juvenile and a man walked toward them. The man had a wine bottle and a phone in one hand and nothing in his other hand, Janicki said. But the juvenile wore a cross-body bag and gripped a gun inside the bag.

Before reaching the officers’ car, the juvenile turned and ran away as the other man waved at the officers with his free hand, Janicki continued.

Reynoso pulled his gun, extended his arm out the passenger window, and shot the man who was not armed, according to Janicki. Liakopolous raised his firearm out the passenger window and also fired multiple shots, she said.

The man, struck twice in the back and once in the leg, fell to the ground. He survived. A pedestrian also suffered a graze wound to their leg.

Meanwhile, the juvenile, who was running across the street, turned and fired multiple rounds toward the officers, she said. Both cops shot at the juvenile. The officers and the juvenile escaped injury. 

During the investigation, both officers told detectives and prosecutors that they only fired their weapons after they were fired upon, Janicki said. 

Several days after the shooting, prosecutors learned that video footage “directly contradicts” the officers’ version of events, she alleged. The officers’ defense attorneys told Judge Maryam Ahmad that the Chicago Office of Police Accountability (COPA) plans to release the footage from one of the cameras early next week.

According to Janicki, the video shows the man with a bottle and phone in one hand standing near the officers’ passenger window with both hands visible when he was shot. The juvenile was heading away from the car, she said.

Prosecutors initially charged the juvenile with attempted murder of a police officer, but they dropped the case one day after they filed it, according to defense attorneys.

Reynoso’s private attorney, Brian Sexton, provided an extensive rebuttal to Janicki’s presentation.

The cops “saw gang members” that they believed were tagging a business’ door, so they stopped to investigate, “basically telling them to knock it off,” Sexton said.

He said the entire encounter, from engaging with the group to the shooting, “all happened within two seconds.”

Christopher Liakopolous (left) and Ruben Reynoso | CPD

Sexton alleged that the camera that captured the shooting was positioned behind the juvenile, and he argued that it was not possible to know if the juvenile fired first.

“It doesn’t matter who fired first if he’s pointing the gun at him,” Sexton told Judge Maryam Ahmad.

But Janicki told Ahmad there was “no indication” that the juvenile fired shots at the officers.

Reynoso spoke with investigators the day after the shooting without having the benefit of seeing the video, Sexton said, adding that even the FBI doesn’t let agents who are involved in shootings talk about their recollections for 72 hours due to the stressors involved.

“This whole thing about contradicting or lying, that’s completely false,” Sexton argued.

“We were confident COPA wasn’t even going to sustain the allegations,” he continued. In fact, COPA didn’t even talk with Reynoso until last week, he said.

Liakopolous’ attorney, Tim Grace, echoed Reynoso’s arguments.

“We don’t use 2020 hindsight” when judging the actions of police, Grace said. “We don’t second guess. We don’t slow down videos” as the CCSAO did in this case, he continued.

Both officers are married, have kids, and have been on the force since the early 2000s.

They are charged with aggravated battery by discharging a firearm, aggravated discharge of a firearm, and official misconduct.

Ahmad ordered each of them to pay $2,500 toward their bail to get out of jail. They both posted and went home after Friday’s hearing.

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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