The mother of a 15-year-old boy who was fatally shot by a Chicago Police officer in 2012 called Friday for the officer to be fired after the Independent Police Review Authority deemed her son’s killing “unprovoked and unwarranted.”
Dakota Bright was shot in the back of the head by an officer on Nov. 8, 2012, in a backyard near 67th and Indiana in the Park Manor neighborhood.
Bright’s mother, Panzy Edwards, spoke to reporters Friday near the site of her son’s death, calling on Chicago Police to terminate the officer who fired the fatal shots — and urging the Cook County state’s attorney to pursue first-degree murder charges.
“He killed my baby son in cold blood,” Edwards said, flanked by family members wearing T-shirts emblazoned with Dakota’s image alongside the words “WE DEMAND JUSTICE.”
The City Council approved a $925,000 settlement to Bright’s family in June 2016. Nevertheless, a sobbing Edwards continued to push for the “justice [Dakota] deserves.”
In a report issued Thursday, IPRA said an unnamed officer “used an unreasonable and excessive amount of force when he shot (Dakota).”
Dakota left a friend’s house about 3:30 p.m. the day of the shooting to walk to his grandmother’s nearby home, his family told the Chicago Sun-Times shortly after his death.
Nearby officers responding to an unfounded burglary call saw the teen walking through an alley. The officer who shot Dakota said he saw him holding a black handgun. The teen was trying to stick the gun in his waistband before running off, the officer told IPRA.
Officers ordered Dakota to stop and drop the gun, but the teen jumped fences into at least one nearby backyard, according to the report. Dakota turned back to look at police while trying to reach for his waistband when he was shot, the officer told IPRA. A weapon was recovered nearby, IPRA noted. In its report, IPRA said that it was “unlikely” that Dakota would have made that type of gesture since he didn’t have a gun on him.
“He was killed and he did not have a gun,” Edwards said Friday. “The [officer] wasn’t in fear for his life. He just killed him.”
“[Dakota] was a young man, he was a black man, and he was killed by a white officer,” she added. “So automatically it was what [the officer] said.”
Three other officers at the scene of the shooting said they saw Dakota holding his side while running away — something often done by people on the run who do not want to drop a firearm. However, IPRA cast doubt on the other officers’ accounts of the killings, claiming there was ample time for collusion.
“They had ample opportunity to discuss the events among themselves at the scene of the incident as well as on at least three other occasions,” IPRA investigators said. “Even if there was no collusion regarding how the officers would ultimately describe the events in question, these multiple discussions could easily have influenced each officer’s recollection of what happened.”
The Fraternal Order of Police issued a statement voicing concerns about IPRA’s ruling.
“We believe the decision by IPRA to rule this incident unjustified is certainly arbitrary, based more on political considerations than the rule of evidence,” Kevin Graham, the president of the Fraternal Order of Police, said in a statement. “A gun was recovered. This incident also cries out for the fact that IPRA should have personnel qualified to conduct shooting investigations, which it currently does not have.”
“Our members in this case will receive the full support of the FOP, and we will fight for fair investigations from IPRA and COPA,” Graham said.
But Edwards, whose life has been mired by a prolonged sickness and the lasting grief of her son’s loss, said the IPRA ruling has given her family some much-needed hope.
“They don’t prosecute officers,” Edwards said. “They don’t put officers in jail. But IPRA don’t make ‘unjustified’ [rulings on] shootings, either. I got that. So who’s to say?”
She added: “With this ruling, it gets better.”
IPRA’s recommendation will now be sent to Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson, who will decide whether to recommend that the Chicago Police Board discipline the officer.