IPRA: Officer acted within policy in Ronald Johnson shooting

SHARE IPRA: Officer acted within policy in Ronald Johnson shooting
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Still frame from the video, recorded by a dashboard-mounted camera, of the scene of the shooting of Ronald Johnson October 12, 2014. | Provided by Cook County State’s Attorney’s office

The Independent Police Review Authority concluded that Chicago Police Officer George Hernandez acted within policy when he shot and killed Ronald Johnson in 2014.

Johnson was fatally shot in October 2014 during a chase in the South Side Washington Park neighborhood.

IPRA’s findings, released Friday night, concluded that the officer’s use of force was within policy because Johnson “wielded a firearm as he attempted to evade being arrested.”

However, the report also noted: “We want to make clear that, while we conclude here that Officer A [Hernandez] was justified in his use of deadly force against an armed suspect despite the fact that he was running away from the officers, we do NOT hold the view that Chicago Police Officers are always justified in using deadly force against an armed suspect who is fleeing.”

Former Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez announced in December 2015 that Hernandez would not be charged, but an attorney for Johnson’s mother, Dorothy Holmes, said Johnson was never carrying a gun.

Ronald Johnson, 25, pictured in June 2014.  | Dorothy Holmes photo via AP

Ronald Johnson, 25, pictured in June 2014. | Dorothy Holmes photo via AP

Holmes has a federal civil rights lawsuit pending against the city and Hernandez.

Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez played a video of the shooting during a news conference at which she announced she would not be filing charges. The video she played for the media including a freeze frame blown up and enhanced by an FBI forensics team that she said appears to show a gun in Johnson’s hand — to help explain why she decided not to charge Hernandez with a crime.

That December 2015 news conference was the first time that video aired publicly; it showed a foot pursuit that ended in the muzzle flashes of Chicago Police Officer George Hernandez’s gun as he shot Ronald Johnson in the back as Johnson tried to run into Washington Park on the South Side.

According to Cook County Assistant State’s Attorney Lynn McCarthy, Johnson had just left a party at an apartment building at 53rd Street and King Drive at about 12:30 a.m. and gotten into a car with three other people when a gunman opened fire on the vehicle. No one was injured, but the rear window of the car was shattered, McCarthy said last year.

The driver of the car later told police he drove around for a couple minutes — during which time he heard a gun being cocked behind him from where Johnson was sitting in the back seat — before returning to the spot at 53rd and King where the car was damaged by gunfire.

Dorothy Holmes, the mother of Ronald Johnson, joins demonstrators in December 2015 protesting the shooting death of her son, on the day it was announced that no criminal charges would be filed against the officer who fired the fatal shots. |  Scott Olson/

Dorothy Holmes, the mother of Ronald Johnson, joins demonstrators in December 2015 protesting the shooting death of her son, on the day it was announced that no criminal charges would be filed against the officer who fired the fatal shots. | Scott Olson/Getty Images

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