A police accountability office and the Chicago police superintendent have agreed to double the 90-day suspension that had been proposed for a Chicago police sergeant found to have unjustifiably shot an unarmed 18-year-old with developmental disabilities. The longer six-month suspension, however, continues to draw criticism, reports CBS Chicago.
Ricardo “Ricky” Hayes, then 18, was shot and wounded by off-duty Sgt. Khalil Muhammad on Aug. 13, 2017. Hayes survived. The shooting was investigated by the Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA), which completed its probe in September.
COPA found that Muhammad acted in an “objectively unreasonable” fashion and initially recommended a 90-day suspension. However, since then agency officials consulted with police Superintendent Eddie Johnson and agreed that Muhammad’s punishment should be doubled to six months without pay, COPA spokesman Ephraim Eaddy said after the original decision was revealed Monday.
“COPA’s investigation into this officer involved shooting concluded that the officer’s use of force was outside of policy,” the group said in a statement released to CBS Chicago. “COPA recommended a discipline of a 90 day suspension and supported the Superintendent’s recommendation to increase the discipline to 180 days as a result of the officer’s supervisory status as a sergeant.”
No charges have been filed before the Chicago Police Board, which would decide Muhammad’s punishment.
Gabriel Hardy, an attorney for Hayes, told the Chicago Tribune COPA’s recommendation is “incredibly troubling.”
“I can’t believe he’s still a police officer, and he hasn’t been charged criminally,” attorney Hardy told the Chicago Sun-Times. “Even though they found that this wasn’t a proper shooting, all you get is a slap on the wrist.”
Muhammad could not be reached for comment Monday.
Muhammad told investigators he was off duty and wearing civilian clothes when he saw a suspicious man, Hayes, near his neighbor’s car, reports CBS Chicago. In a video of the incident, Hayes can be seen running along the sidewalk then stopping. Muhammed pulled up alongside, reportedly in his girlfriend’s SUV, with parked cars between them. Hayes took a few steps toward him and Muhammed shot him in the arm and chest.
Muhammad said he feared for his life and fired his semi-automatic pistol twice.
At the time of the shooting, police officials described the incident as an armed confrontation. Johnson later said Hayes had no weapon. An audio file of the sergeant’s call to 911 has also been released.
“The guy, like, he was about to pull a gun. Walked up to the car, and I had to shoot,” Muhammad told the dispatcher.
Fire Department personnel who responded to the scene told COPA investigators Hayes kept repeating he didn’t know why he was shot because he was just reaching for his phone.
“Deadly force was not reasonably necessary because Sergeant Muhammad could have simply driven away from the potential threat,” the Tribune reports COPA concluded.
COPA found the officer “had no reasonable basis to believe that [Hayes] was armed or dangerous” before opening fire, the Sun-Times reports.
In response to a federal lawsuit filed on Hayes’ behalf over the shooting, Muhammad has denied any wrongdoing, court records show. He was placed indefinitely on paid desk duty after the shooting.
Chicago police Sgt. Isaac Lambert, who was assigned to investigate the shooting, alleges in a lawsuit filed last week he was retaliated against by his bosses for refusing to clear Muhammad of culpability in the shooting.
“I don’t want this guy on the street with a gun, because he shot at Ricardo Hayes for no reason,” said Torreya Hamilton, the attorney for Lambert.