A Chicago Police sergeant and an officer were found not guilty of all charges in connection with a July 2022 shooting in Pilsen that seriously injured an unarmed man.
Cook County Judge Lawrence Flood acquitted Sgt. Christopher Liakopoulos, 44, and Officer Reuben Reynoso, 43, after a bench trial, finding they acted reasonably in firing their weapons after they stopped to investigate a group of people walking near closed businesses near 18th and Morgan streets on July 22, 2022.
While the officers spoke with those people from inside their police car, a 17-year-old boy and a 23-year-old man approached their car, officials said.
The 23-year-old man held a wine bottle and cell phone in one hand, while the 17-year-old carried a gun. Before he reached the police car, the 17-year-old ran from the officers’ car as the other man approached them and displayed both of his hands, officials said.
Both officers fired their weapons at the man, who was struck three times in his back and leg, officials said.
In addition, a 35-year-old man who was walking by the car suffered a graze wound during the incident.
The verdict represented a defeat for State’s Attorney Kim Foxx who has ramped up efforts to hold police officers criminally responsible for misconduct.
When the officers were charged Foxx said they “made representations to legal authorities ... that was directly contradicted by the videotaped evidence.”
Video captured by surveillance cameras show the officers fired first, officials said. However, the officers told investigators they did not shoot first, Foxx said.
Attorneys for Reynoso and Liakopoulos said they opened fire after the 17-year-old pointed his gun at them, which they said could not be seen on surveillance footage.
At the time of the shooting, the officers were assigned to the CPD's Major Accident Investigation Section and were not equipped with body-worn cameras, nor did their cars have dashboard cameras.
The Civilian Office of Police Accountability, the agency charged with investigating police misconduct, has completed its probe of the incident and sent its findings to Chicago Police Superintendent Larry Snelling, who could recommend discipline for Reynoso and Liakopoulos.
After the verdict, Foxx told reporters it was “non-coincidental” that the officers declined to face a jury.
“When those trained to make these critical assessments inflict unwarranted harm and are not held accountable, it further exacerbates the erosion of public trust in our criminal justice system and sends a detrimental message to the community,” Foxx said in a statement. “It signals to residents that their lives and their rights do not hold value in the eyes of the law, and that they can be judged by the color of their skin and the clothes they are wearing, further alienating them from the very institutions meant to ensure their safety and protection.”
Liakopoulos and Reynoso are the latest in a series of Chicago Police officers to be charged with a crime only to be acquitted by a judge. In June, a judge found Chicago Police Sgt. Michael Vitellaro not guilty on charges of aggravated battery and official misconduct for pinning a 14-year-old boy to a Park Ridge sidewalk.
GRAPHIC VIDEO: Surveillance footage shows the July 22, 2022 shooting that led to a pair of Chicago police officers being charged with aggravated battery and other felonies.
GRAPHIC VIDEO: Surveillance footage contains audio from the July 22, 2022 shooting that led to a pair of Chicago police officers being charged with aggravated battery and other felonies.