COPA reverses ruling on 2011 police shooting, but officers can’t be fired

Three officers were cleared by department in 2013 despite firing more than 40 shots at 19-year-old Calvin Cross.

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Police say a 34-year-old man attacked a Chicago police officer July 13, 2022, near Grant Park.

Sun-Times file

A Chicago police officer who fired dozens of times at a fleeing teenager in 2011 should lose his job over the fatal shooting, but will only serve a monthlong suspension, according to a report from the department’s oversight agency that reverses a ruling made by the department two years after the shooting.

Officer Macario Chavez and two fellow officers were cleared of wrongdoing in the shooting death of 19-year-old Calvin Cross after an investigation by the now-defunct Independent Police Review Authority in 2013. Chavez fired a total of 31 shots — 28 from an assault rifle— as he and two partners on a South Side tactical unit chased Cross through a residential neighborhood in West Pullman.

The investigation was reopened in 2016 after a revamp of IPRA amid the fallout of the fatal shooting of Laquan McDonald. In June, IPRA’s successor agency, the Civilian Office of Police Accountability, ruled Chavez violated department policy by firing multiple shots with a high-powered rifle at Cross as the teen sprinted through a residential neighborhood, and that the final volleys of shots Chavez fired as Cross lay prone on the ground — and perhaps dead— were unjustified.

The report notes that because the investigation was completed more than five years from the date Cross was killed, the harshest discipline the department can mete out under state law is a 30-day suspension. But COPA also made the unorthodox suggestion that even once Chavez returns from suspension, the department never let him carry a badge or gun.

“COPA would have recommended Officer Chavez be separated from the Chicago Police Department based on his actions during the incident. However, COPA is unable to make such a recommendation because of Illinois state law,” the report states.

“Even so, COPA recommends not only that Ofc. Chavez be suspended from the Chicago Police Department for that 30-day maximum, but to the extent possible and allowable by law, Officer Chavez be stripped of his police powers, including his badge and firearm, and placed on desk duty.

“Ofc. Chavez’s actions, and importantly his own admissions, detail an officer who is no longer capable of being trusted with police powers.”

CPD spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said Tuesday that Chavez had served his 30-day suspension already and had returned to duty.

The COPA ruling was a vindication and another source of disappointment for Cross’ family, said Tony Thedford, an attorney who represented the family in a wrongful death lawsuit against the city. The case settled for $2 million in 2016.

“This is another blow to the family, just as it was when they lost Calvin, when IPRA cleared the officers, and then again, when the officers got a commendation from the department,” Thedford said. “When (COPA) reopened the case, the family had hope that they didn’t have before. All his mother wanted was for those officers to be fired, all three of them.”

The shooting drew attention from COPA investigators, and the Department of Justice after the McDonald shooting, in part, because Chavez and one of his partners, Officer Muhammed Ali, said Cross had fired at them several times as he ran from them. The only gun found near the scene was a .38-caliber revolver that was fully loaded, and so old and clogged with grime that it could not have fired.

The report makes no ruling on discipline for Ali, who also fired multiple times at Cross as the teen lay on the ground, noting that Ali has been on medical leave from the department and sought a restraining order against COPA to bar them from investigating him until he returns to duty.

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