Chicago’s Independent Police Review Authority has concluded that the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Cedrick LaMont Chatman by a police officer in January 2013 was justified. But the original investigator, Lorenzo Davis, disagrees with this assessment and insists the use of deadly force was unnecessary.
Chatman was shot and killed almost two years ago by Officer Kevin Fry. Fry and his partner, Officer Lou Toth, were searching for a carjacking suspect. When confronted by Fry and his partner, Chatman left the stolen car and ran.
According to the police report, Chatman turned and pointed a dark object at the officers and Fry, fearing for his partner’s life, fired four shots. Chatman later succumbed to his injuries.
In the final IPRA report, Davis’ initial assertion that the use of force was unnecessary was called “unfounded.” The new investigator who took over the case compiled a new report, which cited a “significant discrepancy” between what Davis originally reported and “what the facts of the investigation actually show.”
“The video supports Officer Fry’s observation that [Chatman] was pointing a firearm at Officer Toth,” the report concluded, stating that Fry’s “use of deadly force was in compliance with Chicago Police Department” policy.
Five video surveillance cameras in the vicinity of the shooting captured the incident and, according to Davis, the footage “shows a shooting that should not have occurred” and said Chatman did not turn toward or aim at either of the officers.
“Cedrick was just running as the shots were fired,” he said. “You’re taught that deadly force is a last resort and that you should do everything in your power to apprehend the person before you use deadly force. I did not see where deadly force was called for at that time.”
It was also discovered that the object Chatman had on him at the time of the shooting was an iPhone box and that he was not armed.
Davis, who spent over two decades in the police department before retiring in 2004, joined the IPRA in 2008 and became a supervisor in 2010. During his time with the IPRA he was called an “effective leader” and “excellent team player.”
The IPRA’s opinion of Davis turned sour, he alleges, when he began reporting that some police shootings were unjustified —including in Chatman’s case.
Davis was fired in July. His final assessment painted a much different portrait of him, describing his as “clearly not [being] a team player” and “the only supervisor at IPRA who resists making requested changes as directed by management in order to reflect the correct findings with respect to [officer-involved shootings].” Davis, according to the report, “displays a complete lack of objectivity combined with a clear bias against the police in spite of his own lengthy police career.”
But Davis said it’s the IPRA who’s biased, not him.
“[Officers] have shot people dead when they did not have to shoot,” he said. “They were not in reasonable fear for their lives. The evidence shows that the officer knew, or should have known, that the person who they shot was not armed or did not pose a threat to them or could have been apprehended by means of deadly force.”
Created in 2007 to investigate complaints against police officers and police shootings, the IPRA replaced the Office of Professional Standards. The Office of Professional Standards had been under public scrutiny because it was a part of the police department; essentially, the police were investigating themselves.
But the IPRA began facing similar criticisms because many people working there are former officers themselves. And out of nearly 400 police shooting cases investigated by the IPRA, only one was deemed unjustified.
Meanwhile, Chicago is currently in the midst of a corruption scandal that has exploded following the release of the fatal police shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, who was shot 16 times. The officer responsible has been charged with first-degree murder; this is the first time since 1968 that an on-duty Chicago officer has been charged with murder for a police shooting.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel fired Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy last week amid protests from angry citizens who insist that the city has been covering up incidents such as McDonald’s death. Protesters are still calling for the mayor and Cook County Prosecutor Anita Alvarez to resign as well, insisting they too were involved in city cover-ups as well.