The family of a man who says he was shot and left permanently disabled by an off-duty Chicago Police officer in 2010 asked a federal jury for almost $95 million Tuesday as a weeks-long trial over the shooting neared its end.
Michael D. LaPorta was shot in the head with a bullet from Officer Patrick Kelly’s service weapon on Jan. 12, 2010. The two had been close friends, and the shooting occurred in Kelly’s home after the pair had gone out drinking with Kelly’s co-workers.
Kelly invoked his constitutional right not to incriminate himself when he was called to the witness stand last week. He did so moments before LaPorta testified from his wheelchair, denying that he shot himself and insisting of Kelly, “I know he shot me.”
Now, after three weeks of testimony, jurors are expected to finally begin deliberating LaPorta’s claims. At issue is whether the city failed to rein in Kelly, an officer with a history of violence, in a way that could have prevented LaPorta’s injuries.
First, jurors will be asked to agree whether it’s more likely Kelly pulled the trigger the night LaPorta was shot — an allegation Kelly specifically refused to deny when he took the stand last week.
Then, jurors will be asked to consider, among other things, whether a so-called “code of silence” exists within the Chicago Police Department that protected Kelly. It will do so after being exposed to conclusions by the Police Accountability Task Force, the Department of Justice and even Mayor Rahm Emanuel that such a code exists.
Tony Romanucci, the lawyer representing LaPorta’s family, told jurors Tuesday their verdict could force real reforms at CPD.
“Your task is monumental,” Romanucci said. “It’s big.”
But the city’s lawyer, Eileen Rosen, said Tuesday that LaPorta’s memory of the shooting is medically unreliable because of the traumatic brain injury he suffered and the alcohol he drank that night.
Kelly and LaPorta had visited multiple bars with other off-duty Chicago Police officers before the shooting. But what happened later inside Kelly’s home has never been clear. Testimony suggests the two got into an argument over Kelly’s dog.
When Kelly called 911 early that morning, he calmly told a dispatcher, “I have a friend that committed suicide … He’s dead right now.” But soon, his tone changed, and he abruptly blurted out the words, “he’s still breathing!”
When paramedics arrived, Kelly was “extremely upset,” “agitated” and “not calm-able,” witnesses said. He yelled obscenities at a sergeant and was ultimately arrested for simple assault. A judge later found him not guilty.
Kelly has previously said he saw LaPorta holding his gun to his left temple with his left hand. Kelly said he heard the gun click and then tried to grab it with his right hand. The gun went off with Kelly’s hand about six inches away, he said.
But LaPorta testified that he learned to shoot a gun when he was 7, and he always used his right hand.
CPD is taking a second look at the shooting. Kelly remains on the force but has been assigned to administrative duties.