CHICAGO (AP) — Two Chicago police officers face felony charges for allegedly shooting and seriously wounding an unarmed man during a July shootout on the city’s southwest side that also wounded a second man, authorities said Friday.
Sgt. Christopher Liakopoulos, 43, and Officer Ruben Reynoso, 42, have been charged with one count each of aggravated battery with a firearm, aggravated discharge of a firearm and official misconduct, said Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx.
Foxx said the officers were relieved of their police powers on Thursday before they turned themselves in to authorities.
Foxx said both officers “are being charged with having fired their shots" that wounded an unarmed 23-year-old man — identified separately Friday through a civil court filing as Miguel Medina — on July 22 in the city’s Pilsen neighborhood. That man has since recovered and is cooperating with the investigation, she said.
“The victim who was shot and injured in this incident was not in possession of a weapon, nor did he fire a weapon at these two officers,” Foxx said during a news conference.
After the shooting, police said in a statement that two officers who had observed four people loitering in front of a closed store stopped to investigate and identified themselves as police.
Police said one of the four in the group then displayed a handgun and an exchange of gunfire ensued in which Medina suffered gunshot wounds and was transported to a hospital in serious condition.
Foxx said that based on a review of the evidence, including video surveillance footage, prosecutors believe “the officers involved in this incident did not have provocation or justification to shoot the unarmed" Medina.
“The evidence does not support the use of deadly force related to the shooting of the unarmed victim, and was not lawful,” Foxx said.
Assistant State’s Attorney Alyssa Janicki said Friday at the officers' bond hearing that a juvenile and Medina initially approached the unmarked police vehicle when questioned by the officers.
The juvenile ran, but Medina showed both hands to the officers as Reynoso and Liakopoulos both pointed their guns out the vehicle’s passenger window and started shooting. Medina was shot in the back and leg.
The juvenile, who Janicki said had a gun in a satchel across his chest, kept running before turning and firing shots at the officers who shot back. A pedestrian near the juvenile suffered a grazing wound.
The officers were heading to a morning training course and were in plain clothes at the time of the shooting. Neither had on their police body cameras because they were going to training, Janicki said.
Prosecutors later obtained surveillance video from the area.
After the shooting, Foxx said, the two officers “made representations to legal authorities, including the Cook County state’s attorney’s office, that was directly contradicted by the videotaped evidence."
Brian Sexton, Reynoso’s attorney, said during Friday's hearing that his client was focused on the 17-year-old with the gun and never shot in the direction of Medina.
Sexton said that after Reynoso watched a surveillance video of the shooting, he told the Civilian Office of Police Accountability and the state’s attorney’s office that he “just didn’t remember” the shooting.
Tim Grace, Liakopoulos’ attorney, told the judge that the officers were confronted “by an armed assailant who points a gun at them and eventually fires at them.”
“We are supposed to see if the police officer’s actions were objectively reasonable,” Grace said. “We don’t use 20/20 hindsight. We don’t second-guess. We don’t slow down video like the state’s attorney's office does.”
Medina filed a federal lawsuit on Friday against Liakopoulos and the city accusing the officer of using excessive force and battery during their interaction and falsely arresting him afterward.
Medina alleges that he and others were walking when the officers drove up in police vehicle and started questioning the group. Medina says he showed his hands and began walking away when Liakopoulos fired shots at him from the vehicle, striking him several times.
Medina was treated at a hospital for his wounds and then held for several hours at a police station, though he was never charged, according to the lawsuit, which doesn't say how much Medina is seeking and requests a jury trial.
The Civilian Office of Police Accountability is investigating the shooting and has a deadline of Sept. 22 to release materials related to the shooting, including videos, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.