Supt. Johnson on shooting of 18-year-old: ‘More questions than answers’

CHICAGO -- An unarmed 18-year-old black man was shot in the back by Chicago police. Now Chicago’s top cop has taken the police powers of three officers.

Taking the badge of an officer is the strongest action the superintendent can take while an incident is being reviewed.  As of tonight, three of the four cops who were involved in the confrontation have been stripped of their police powers.

Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson says he is concerned and troubled by what he saw on video -- from a police squad car’s dashboard camera and new officer body cameras -- showing the events that led to death of 18-year-old Paul O’Neal.

“It appears departmental polices may have been violated during the incident,” Johnson said. “That’s why I made the decision to relive three officers of their police powers pending the outcome of IPRA’s investigation. After this review, I’m left with more questions than answers.”

At about 7:30 p.m. Thursday, police patrolling the city’s South Shore neighborhood say they spotted a Jaguar that had been reported stolen. O’Neal was driving it, and had a 17-year-old passenger in the car.

Police say officers tried to stop the car, but O’Neal rammed their SUV, then sideswiped a parked car. There were two rounds of gunfire from police. The first came first while O’Neal was still in the car. That may have caused O’Neal to collide with a second police SUV.

Police say O’Neal then jumped out of the Jaguar and ran. An officer chased him and shot him behind a nearby home. O’Neal died at Northwestern Memorial Hospital an hour later.

“This job isn’t easy,” Johnson said. “In the interest of safeguarding communities, your partner and yourself, you’re required to make split second decisions that sometimes have very serious consequences.”

Johnson says he took the officers’ badges because three of the four involved might have violated department policy, but he declined to specify the exact policy violation, saying he didn’t want to sway the investigation. Police now acknowledge that O’Neal was unarmed.

According to the Cook County Medical Examiner, O’Neal was shot in the back. Johnson knows the department is struggling to regain the city’s trust and promised transparency and accountability in this case.

“I’m committed to keeping my promise to all Chicagoans to restore that faith, while also never losing sight of the courage, commitment and sacrifice, that the men and women of the Chicago Police Department make each and every day,” Johnson said.

The three officers’ actions are now under review by the Independent Police Review Authority. Under new city policy, video from the incident the must be released to the public within 60 days.