Embattled Chicago cop quits after investigators recommend he be fired for the second time

A Chicago police officer who was involved in the events leading up to the fatal police shooting of Anthony Alvarez has resigned from the department after the city’s police oversight agency recommended that he be terminated for firing his weapon during another incident last summer.

CWBChicago reported on April 21 that the Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA) had also recommended the firing of Officer Sammy Encarnacion for years-old allegations of off-duty intoxication, firearm discharge, domestic violence, and other violations.

A still-earlier COPA investigation found that Encarnacion initiated the March 31, 2021, foot pursuit of Alvarez, but his partner eventually passed him and later shot Alvarez, who was carrying a gun. Both officers were suspended for 20 days last summer.

On-duty gunfire investigation

On July 29, 2022, nine days after the police board handed down the suspensions, Encarnacion allegedly fired his gun during another on-duty incident in the 6400 block of West Higgins Road.

Encarnacion and his partner were inside a Subway restaurant when “their attention was drawn to a vehicle outside, which prompted them to investigate further,” the COPA statement said.

The officers followed the car in their patrol vehicle for a short distance until it crashed into a light pole, and two people ran from the car, COPA said. Encarnacion fired his weapon as the suspects fled, but no one was struck by the gunfire, the agency’s final report said. Both people who ran from the car were arrested, and officers found a gun inside their vehicle, but it was never used during the incident, COPA said.

The agency posted a variety of videos and other documentation on its website, including Encarnacion’s bodyworn camera footage:

COPA investigators sustained three findings against Encarnacion in the just-completed investigation, concluding that he discharged his firearm toward two people without justification and failed to activate his body camera as dictated by CPD policy.

In a statement issued Tuesday morning, COPA’s chief administrator said the police department notified the agency that Encarnacion resigned effective April 26, the same day that COPA concluded its investigation into the Higgins Road incident.

Previous allegations sustained

In its earlier investigation of Encarnacion, COPA concluded that he fired his weapon through an apartment window while off-duty, pointed his gun at his ex-girlfriend on another occasion, and once placed the unloaded weapon in his mouth and pulled the trigger. That investigation began after the ex-girlfriend filed a complaint in November 2017 and didn’t end until last May.

“She began to notice his ‘Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’ personality, in that when he was nice and kind when he was sober but would become verbally and physically abusive when he drank alcohol,” the report said.

When Encarnacion drank too much, “he would pull his gun out, wave it around, and sometimes, point it at her and/or himself. [She] related that PO Encarnacion would always leave his gun on the table, so she started hiding the guns from him,” the report continued.

COPA concluded that Encarnacion should be terminated for each of the 17 allegations it found were sustained by the agency’s investigators. David Brown, the former CPD superintendent, signed a letter of concurrence with COPA’s recommendations on August 3 last year.

The COPA report included photographs of Encarnacion passed out on the floor on five different dates, including one time when he was wearing his Chicago police vest. According to the COPA report, Encarnacion told COPA he didn’t know that photos were taken of him, and he denied being intoxicated while lying on the floor in his uniform vest.

The report detailed several allegations of verbal abuse and physical violence, including a time when Encarnacion allegedly pushed the woman down and dragged her across the floor of his apartment when she came over to check on him. Another woman, whom Encarnacion said he had been seeing for a few months, was in the apartment at the time, the report said.

COPA said it secured a video that showed Encarnacion standing on his ex’s car, carrying a hammer while screaming and speaking with slurred speech, as he ordered her to get off his family’s property in Waukegan.

Encarnacion was put in no-pay status on April 15, a Chicago police spokesperson said, days before the COPA documents became public. He resigned 11 days later after COPA’s second investigation concluded with a termination recommendation.

Asked last month to explain why COPA’s investigation took years to complete, the agency’s First Deputy Chief Administrator, Ephraim Eaddy, released this written statement:

As the agency responsible for investing complaints of misconduct of Chicago police officers, COPA receives over 5000 complaints a year that are reviewed to determine jurisdiction and if they will be retained by our agency or forwarded to the appropriate entity.

All investigations are of significant importance and may have their own set of challenges.The complexity of this investigation is reflected in the dozens of allegations against the officer that required a thorough review and unique circumstances regarding the officer’s availability.

Within the first week of COPA receiving the initial complaint in this investigation, COPA sent a request for behavioral intervention to the Chicago Police Department reflecting its concerns about the accused officer, requested that he be mandated to be evaluated and summarized the nature of the allegations in COPA’s investigation.

COPA strives to conduct timely investigations and prioritize cases to bring closure to both complainant and officer and believe our recent efforts in some high profile incidents demonstrate our commitment.

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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