Two Chicago Police officers should be fired and seven disciplined for their role in an incident that injured a woman’s eye after she was pulled from her car at the Brickyard Mall during the unrest that swept the city after the police murder of George Floyd, according to the agency charged with investigating misconduct by members of the Chicago Police Department.
Chicago Police Supt. David Brown agreed with the findings made by the Civilian Office of Police Accountability, known as COPA, and recommended that the Chicago Police Board terminate Officer David Laskus. COPA also recommended that Officer Patrick Dwyer be fired for using racist and sexist language during the incident, but he retired in July 2020.
Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7 President John Catanzara did not respond to a request for comment from WTTW News about Brown’s decision to terminate Laskus.
The probe found no evidence that Mia Wright, Tnika Tate, Kim Woods, Ebony Wilbourn and Javon Hill attempted to loot a sporting goods store at the Far Northwest Side strip mall on May 31, 2020. The City Council agreed in March to pay $650,000 to Wright, whose sight was damaged during the incident, and $243,750 to each of the four other people in the car.
During a contentious meeting of the City Council’s Finance Committee meeting to consider that settlement, Ald. Nicholas Sposato (38th Ward) said he was convinced that Wright and her four friends, who are Black, were there to loot the sporting goods store because they would not have traveled from North Lawndale to shop in Belmont Cragin, a neighborhood that is home to a majority of white and Latino Chicagoans.
Sposato is a close ally of Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who called him her “friend and conscience” Wednesday at an unrelated news conference.
Ultimately, the City Council voted 34-13 to settle the lawsuit in March, the first significant payment approved by city officials to compensate Chicagoans who alleged they were mistreated by Chicago Police officers during the unrest and protests that swept the city in the wake of Floyd’s murder.
The incident was captured by several bystanders on cell phone videos and prompted widespread outrage.
Laskus falsely told investigators that he saw someone with a hammer attempt to break a window at the Champs store and get back into the red Hyundai Wright and her friends were riding in, the investigation concluded.
Wright and her friends were at the mall to shop for party supplies and items for a baby, and never left their car, according to the probe’s conclusion.
The man who used the hammer to attempt to break the window was dressed differently than anyone in the car, and surveillance video showed him fleeing in the opposite direction of Wright’s car, according to the probe.
No hammer was found in the red Hyundai, according to the probe’s conclusion.
The group was driving away at the direction of other officers when a swarm of officers approached the car and began using their batons to smash the car’s windows and demanded that they get out of the vehicle.
Wright, 26, who was studying to be an emergency medical technician, was pulled from the car by her hair by Laskus who then kneeled on her back and neck, according to the probe’s conclusion.
Laskus lied when he told investigators he did not pull Wright by her hair, according to the probe. Footage captured by the officers’ body-worn cameras shows him grabbing the end of Wright’s braids and pulling her to the ground, according to the probe’s conclusion.
The probe concluded that Dwyer became enraged when an onlooker approached the car and tried to stop the officers from removing the five people from the car.
Dwyer called that person a “c***,” a “b****,” an “animal,” a “s***head,” and a whore, according to the probe’s conclusion.
Dwyer also used the word “shines,” a disparaging way to refer to Black people, according to the report’s conclusion.
The probe recommended that Sgt. Peter Toledo be suspended for 90 days for failing to properly supervise officers and to ensure they documented their use of force against the occupants of the car. In addition, the probe recommended that Sgt. Jason Lieblick be suspended for 45 days for failing to report Dwyer’s verbal abuse.
The probe recommended that Officer Raymond Duncker be suspended for 15 days for arresting Wright for disorderly conduct without justification, improperly seizing the Hyundai and for failing to complete the required documentation of the incident.
The probe recommended that Officer Timothy Vasiliadis be suspended for three days for failing to complete the required documentation of the incident and for concealing his name and star number. Three other officers should be reprimanded, according to the probe.
A probe by the city’s inspector general found that Chicago Police botched nearly every aspect of its response to the protests and unrest triggered by Floyd’s murder. A parallel probe by the team charged by a federal judge with overseeing reforms to the Chicago Police Department said it was unprepared for the protests and unrest.