City Council to Reconsider Recommendation to Pay $1M Lawsuit Settlement to Mother of Man Killed by Chicago Police Officer Who Turned Off Camera

Body camera footage shows what lead up to the fatal shooting of 26-year-old Sharell Brown by Chicago police officers. (Civilian Office of Police Accountability)Body camera footage shows what lead up to the fatal shooting of 26-year-old Sharell Brown by Chicago police officers. (Civilian Office of Police Accountability)

The Chicago City Council will reconsider a recommendation from the city’s lawyers to pay $1 million to the mother of a man who was fatally shot in May 2019 by a Chicago police officer who turned off his body-worn camera after a foot chase.

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Sharell Brown, 26, was shot and killed during a confrontation with police officers who stopped him in Lawndale. Brown was shot four times in the head and twice in his right arm, according to the investigation of the incident by the Civilian Office of Police Accountability, known as COPA.

The Chicago City Council’s Finance Committee had been scheduled to consider the recommendation of the city’s lawyers to settle the case in January, the month before all 50 members of the City Council and the mayor faced voters. Opposition to the settlement prompted Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd Ward), then the chair of the Finance Committee under former Mayor Lori Lightfoot, to first delay a vote and then scuttle it entirely.

Five months later, Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd Ward), the new chair of the Finance Committee under Mayor Brandon Johnson, is set to ask her colleagues to approve the settlement at the first meeting of the City Council’s most powerful committee during Johnson’s administration.

If the City Council fails to approve the settlement, the city and its lawyers will have to convince a jury that Officer Joseph Lisciandrello did nothing wrong when he shot and killed Brown — after turning off his body-worn camera — or hope any award in the case is less than what their lawyers recommended paying to resolve it plus the cost of a trial.

Brown was stopped on the afternoon of May 11, 2019, because he fit the “general description” of two men they were looking for. When officers discovered Brown was armed with a Sig Sauer pistol, he ran from the officers, according to COPA’s probe of the incident. At the time, the Chicago Police Department did not have a policy governing foot chases.

Police Officer Robert Rhodes said he fired 11 shots at Brown after he pulled the pistol out of his jacket pocket and pointed the weapon at officers. Two witnesses confirmed Rhodes’ statement, according to COPA’s report.

Fifteen minutes later, Lisciandrello responded to Rhodes’ call for help, and located Brown. Lisciandrello fired nine times at Brown, killing him. Lisciandrello told investigators Brown pointed the pistol at him before he opened fire in two separate volleys, according to COPA’s report.

When Brown’s body was searched, the pistol was recovered, but no ammunition. A clip that fit the gun was found near the path Brown took as he fled police, according to COPA’s report.

While the probe by COPA found that Rhodes’ actions complied with departmental policy, the probe said there was not enough evidence to determine whether Lisciandrello’s decision to open fire at Brown was justified, according to COPA’s report.

There were no witnesses when Lisciandrello shot Brown, and the officer’s body-worn camera was off at the time of the fatal shots, according to COPA’s report. In addition, while Lisciandrello told investigators that he ordered Brown to drop his weapon before shooting him, there is no evidence he gave that order as required. No witnesses reported hearing it, and it was not captured on other officers’ body-worn cameras.

In addition, the investigation concluded that Lisciandrello “improperly deactivated and/or failed to properly re-activate his (body-worn camera)” during the incident, according to COPA’s report.

“Officer Lisciandrello’s failure to timely reactivate his (body-worn camera) effectively ensured that the only surviving account of the incident would be the one he provided,” according to COPA’s report.

COPA recommended that Lisciandrello be suspended for a minimum of 180 days or terminated. Lisciandrello remains a member of the Chicago Police Department, according to the city’s data portal.

Other Action

The Finance Committee will also consider paying $550,000 to resolve a lawsuit brought by Joshua Habasek-Bonelli, who sued the city after he was tased by a Chicago Police officer later charged with felony battery and official misconduct.

Habasek-Bonelli was unarmed when he was confronted by Officer Marco Simonetti in August 2021 outside his Northwest Side home. Habasek-Bonelli was hospitalized and treated for trauma to his head and face, including a nasal fracture and lacerations that required stitches, according to officials.

Representatives of the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office said the criminal case against Simonetti, who was stripped of his police powers after being charged in October, is pending. Simonetti is due back in court in July, officials said.

In other action, the Finance Committee will consider paying $7.25 million to settle a lawsuit brought by Arthur Brown, who spent 30 years in prison after being convicted of killing two people by setting fire to a South Side store in 1988.

Brown was released in 2017 after a judge overturned his conviction, prompting Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx to drop the charges against him.

Brown said he confessed to setting the fire that spread to a nearby restaurant after being choked by a detective and chained to the wall for five hours. No physical or forensic evidence was ever presented in court to bolster Brown’s confession, according to court records.

Contact Heather Cherone: @HeatherCherone | (773) 569-1863 | [email protected]

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