CHICAGO (CBS) — The city’s police watchdog agency has concluded its investigation of the police shooting of Ariel Roman, an unarmed man who was shot by police in February after officers confronted him for passing between cars on a Red Line train.
However, the Civilian Office of Police Accountability said it will not be releasing its findings on the Feb. 28 shooting at the Grand stop on the Red Line until after Chicago Police Supt. David Brown has had a chance to review and respond to their recommendations, and the officers involved have been served with any possible disciplinary charges.
In the past, COPA has often released its findings on fatal police shootings once its investigation is complete, before the superintendent has had a chance to review their recommendations, but appears to have changed its policy after the city’s inspector general in 2018 criticized the agency for publishing its finding that Officer Robert Rialmo was not justified when he shot and killed Quintonio LeGrier and Bettie Jones in December 2015.
At the time, Deputy Inspector General for Public Safety Joe Lipari said releasing COPA’s findings in the Rialmo case before then-Supt. Eddie Johnson could respond to the report “risked creating the appearance of an accountability system susceptible to external pressure.”
Brown has 60 days to respond to COPA’s report in the Roman case.
In April, COPA released several videos of the shooting, including a longer version of the infamous cell phone video showing Officer Melvina Bogard shooting Roman in the stomach and lower back. Some of the videos are also body camera videos, while others are from the Chicago Transit Authority and bystanders. But what you won’t see are the body camera videos from the perspective of the officers at the center of the incident, which were not included.
Bogard and Officer Bernard Butler have been relieved of their duties as COPA investigates the shooting.
The two officers confronted Roman after seeing him illegally move between cars of a Red Line train on Feb. 28.
Videos from several surveillance cameras on the train show Bogard and Butler talking to Roman on the train, before he walks away from them. Moments later, Bogard follows him and motions to him to get of the train. The surveillance videos do not have sound, so it’s not clear exactly what they said to each other.
Another surveillance video from outside the train shows both officers talking to Roman before he tries to walk away, and one of the officers grabs his arm. A struggle ensues, and the officers tackle Roman to the ground, mostly out of sight of that camera.
A passenger’s cell phone video of the struggle shows the officers struggling to hold down Roman and trying to handcuff him. A shorter version of the cell phone video has been shared on social media, and viewed millions of times.
In the video, an officer is heard yelling for Roman to “stop resisting” – something the officer screamed more than 10 times. The officers then both deploy their Tasers. But Roman breaks free, staggers to his feet and appears to wipe his face, apparently from pepper spray. Bogard then steps back and pulls her weapon and yells, “Sir, put your f***ing hands down!” as Butler yells, “Shoot him!”
Seconds later, Bogard draws her weapon and shoots Roman. After that first shot, Roman runs up the escalator, the officers give chase, and a second shot rings out off camera. Various surveillance cameras from the busy Grand station in River North show passengers fleeing after the shots ring out, and other police officers arriving on scene.
While there is no body camera video from Bogard or Butler, body cameras from several other officers show the aftermath at the top of the escalator.
Roman has sued the city and the officers for excessive force. The lawsuit seeks unspecified financial damages. Roman’s attorneys said the city also needs to make sure all officers are properly trained, noting Bogard opened fire in a busy mass transit station, where an innocent bystander could have been shot over an incident that didn’t require deadly force to begin with.
Civil rights attorney Greg Kulis has said the cell phone video of the shooting clearly shows the officers were not properly trained in using de-escalation tactics or the proper use of force.
“You don’t pull out a weapon and start blazing at a mass transit station,” he said earlier this year.
Attorney Gloria Schmidt Rodriguez has said Roman has been diagnosed with anxiety disorder, and began suffering a panic attack while riding a Red Line train that day.
Roman’s attorneys said, while he has acknowledged moving between the cars of a CTA train — which is a violation of city ordinance — he did not commit any crime that would have warranted him being arrested, and was not armed or otherwise a threat to police or anyone else.
“The officers – who are trained – should have relaxed, and chilled, and taken time, called backup. The notion that an officer would shoot her service revolver twice is astonishing,” said Roman’s attorney, Andrew Stroth.
Use of force experts who reviewed the video with CBS have said the footage is problematic, particularly given that Roman was walking away when he was shot.
“The law simply doesn’t allow what I saw in the video,” said University of Pittsburgh law professor David A. Harris.
“I don’t see him strike the officers. I don’t see him at any time with a weapon,” said Retired LAPD SWAT Sgt. Scott Defoe.
Both Harris and Defoe said the video does not suggest that Roman was a deadly threat. And police are not allowed to use deadly force to prevent an escape – which appeared to be what happened when the shot rang out as Roman ran up the escalator.
Roman was charged with resisting arrest and criminal drug charges after the shooting, but police later asked prosecutors to drop all charges.
Roman was taken to Northwestern Memorial Hospital after the shooting, and underwent at least two surgeries. Rodriguez said the gunshot wound to his stomach destroyed the tissue connecting his bladder to his small intestine, and the bullet that hit him in the buttocks is still lodged in his back, and can’t be removed, because it’s too close to his sciatic nerve.
In addition to the COPA investigation of the shooting, the FBI and the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office have opened criminal investigations.