Two newly released police reports in the controversial fatal shooting of 18-year-old Paul O’Neal differ in what they say about the teen’s actions while fleeing police.
Several police reports pertaining to the July 28 incident were released Friday to the Chicago Sun-Times. One officer in his report wrote that O’Neal “reached into his waistband” as he ran from officers.
That could indicate the officer believed O’Neal was reaching for a weapon. And yet, it is not repeated in any other officer’s report released Friday. The most detailed narrative in the documents released Friday is a major incident report that describes the pursuit of the stolen vehicle and the foot chase, but makes no mention of O’Neal reaching into his waistband.
The documents also indicate there was a second suspect, a passenger in the car O’Neal was driving. That person was taken into custody, according to the report.
An autopsy showed O’Neal was shot in the back by police; he was fleeing officers on foot after police had chased the car he was driving, which had been reported stolen.
Under investigation by the Independent Police Review Authority, the release of police dashcam and bodycam videos in the incident has sparked protests.
O’Neal was fleeing police after allegedly stealing a 2002 Jaguar convertible from west suburban Bolingbrook. The chase ended in the South Shore neighborhood, in a residential yard in the the 7300 block of South Merrill.
According to the documents, O’Neal was transported to Northwestern Memorial Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. The Cook County Medical Examiner performed an autopsy on July 30, determined the cause of death was a gunshot wound to the back, and ruled the death a homicide.
Police have since said O’Neal was unarmed.
Three officers involved in the shooting have been stripped of police powers by Supt. Eddie Johnson last week, a move praised by IPRA head Sharon Fairley and Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who has faced the harshest spotlight of his political career over police misconduct.
A police tactical response report states: “Subject intentionally rammed his vehicle into RO’s vehicle while numerous shots were simultaneously heard coming from the direction of the offenders vehicle. During pursuit offender failed to comply to verbal commands while reaching into his waist band.”
However, a major incident notification omits any mention of the teen reaching into a waistband, which could have led police to fear a potential gun.
That report states police received a call of a stolen car, observed the stolen vehicle, and notified the Office of Emergency Management & Communications of the stolen vehicle’s direction of travel. When officers activated their emergency equipment, the vehicle began to flee at a high rate of speed, according to the report.
“The offender’s vehicle sped up and struck a [police] car’s front end and a parked vehicle on the street and nearly struck an officer as he was exiting his squad car,” the report states. “Two officers both fired their weapons at the offending vehicle. The vehicle continued traveling northbound and drove head on into another [police] car front end leaving both vehicles nonoperational.
“The driver exited the vehicle and fled on foot, the passenger in the vehicle was apprehended on the scene. Two officers chased O’Neal on foot. During the foot pursuit, one officer discharged his firearm striking O’Neal,” the major incident notification report continues.
Officers’ names are blacked out in the reports, and the department has declined to identify the officers involved, stating: “At this time, CPD has received credible information to suggest that the welfare of all officers involved in this incident may be in great danger” if their names were made public.