COPA Chief Raises Concerns About Why Police Pulled Over Dexter Reed Before Deadly Shooting

Video: COPA Chief Administrator Andrea Kersten joins “Chicago Tonight” to discuss the ongoing investigation around the fatal police shooting of Dexter Reed. (Produced by Andrea Guthmann)

The head of the police oversight agency tasked with investigating the fatal shooting of Dexter Reed has raised concerns about the reasoning officers gave for why they decided to pull over Reed’s vehicle the evening he was killed.

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Andrea Kersten, chief administrator of the Civilian Office of Police Accountability, wrote in a letter to Chicago police Superintendent Larry Snelling that her agency has “grave concerns about the officers’ ability to assess what is a necessary, reasonable, and proportional use of deadly force.”

The office on Tuesday published body camera videos and response reports from the fatal March 21 shooting in which Chicago police officers fired 96 shots at the 26-year-old Reed in a matter of 41 seconds after he appeared to have first shot one officer in the arm.

Read More: 4 Chicago Police Officers Fired at Dexter Reed 96 Times in 41 Seconds After He Shot Officer in Arm: COPA

According to COPA, the officers initiated the traffic stop because Reed was not wearing his seatbelt. The officers’ body cameras captured audio and video of the shooting, but there was no audio available of the moments just prior to when they decided to pull over Reed.

COPA has also recommended to Snelling that four of the officers involved should be relieved of their police powers during the investigation.

In a letter to Snelling last week, Kersten raised concerns about the veracity of the officers’ accounts.

“Specifically, COPA is uncertain how the officers could have seen this seat belt violation given their location relative to (Reed’s) vehicle and the dark tints on (his) vehicle windows,” Kersten wrote. “This evidence raises serious concerns about the validity of the traffic stop that led to the officers’ encounter with (Reed).”

The incident occurred after five CPD officers assigned to an 11th District tactical unit pulled over a white SUV for a traffic stop in the 3800 block of West Ferdinand Street around 6 p.m. March 21.

COPA officials said preliminary evidence appeared to confirm that Reed fired on police first after they repeatedly ordered him to roll down his windows and unlock his vehicle’s doors. Four of the officers on scene then returned fire, with dozens of shots fired in a matter of seconds.

“The only reason that we have been able to decide so far in our investigation was for purportedly not wearing a seatbelt,” Kersten told WTTW News. “We don’t have any other information that (Reed) was known to them otherwise (or) that the vehicle was known to them otherwise.”

A gun was found in the front passenger seat of Reed’s vehicle, according to COPA.

Videos showed Reed collapse to the ground after being shot outside of his vehicle. One officer continued firing at Reed after he fell to the pavement, then briefly stopped before firing three more shots while Reed appeared motionless.

Attorneys representing Reed’s family described those final shots as a “military-style” execution and criticized the officers for repeatedly escalating the situation before shots were fired. The attorneys also claimed the officers never identified themselves as police while pulling over Reed.

Kersten in her letter to Snelling said evidence shows all four officers who fired shots did so after Reed exited his vehicle and was unarmed. She also expressed concerns about the “proportionality” of the officers’ use of deadly force.

But Kersten also noted that “as we best can discern,” it appears Reed fired first.

“These circumstances are incredibly fraught,” she told WTTW News. “These videos are obviously deeply disturbing to Dexter Reed’s family, to many community members and also our officers. These are complicated situations and that’s why we need thorough investigations, thorough reviews from an independent agency such as COPA.”

COPA’s investigation into the shooting remains ongoing, and the Chicago Police Department said in a statement it is cooperating fully.

Contact Matt Masterson: @ByMattMasterson | (773) 509-5431 | [email protected]

A Safer City is supported, in part, by the Sue Ling Gin Foundation Initiative for Reducing Violence in Chicago.

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