The off-duty Chicago Police officer spoke calmly as the 911 call began in January 2010.
“I have a friend that committed suicide,” Patrick Kelly told the dispatcher who answered the phone. “He’s dead right now.”
But soon, Kelly’s tone changed. He abruptly blurted out the words, “he’s still breathing!” And soon, as the dispatcher tried to offer instruction, an agitated Kelly told her to “get the f—ing paramedics here!”
That friend — Michael D. LaPorta — survived and appeared nearly eight years later Monday in a wheelchair in the front row of a courtroom at the Dirksen Federal Courthouse.
He looked on as a contentious trial over the shooting that left him permanently disabled finally kicked off with a lengthy opening statement that included a recording of Kelly’s 911 call.
At issue is whether the city of Chicago failed to rein in Kelly — described in court Monday as a “loose-cannon, ticking-time-bomb police officer” — before a bullet from Kelly’s service weapon wound up in LaPorta’s head on Jan. 12, 2010.
The lawyer representing LaPorta’s family, Tony Romanucci, told jurors there is “overwhelming evidence” that Kelly shot LaPorta that night. But he said Kelly escaped accountability through CPD’s so-called “Code of Silence.”
“He had a badge, a gun and a license to kill,” Romanucci told jurors at the start of a trial that is expected to last weeks.
Kelly’s attorney declined to comment Monday afternoon. Lawyers for the city also did not have a chance to give their opening statement before U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber adjourned for the day.
But the Chicago Police Department is now taking a second look at the shooting. Kelly remains on the force but has been assigned to administrative duties, officials said.
Earlier this year, the city also settled for $500,000 a separate lawsuit naming Kelly as a defendant. The woman who filed it said she suffered a miscarriage after Kelly used a Taser on her three times in August 2013.
In fact, ahead of LaPorta’s shooting, 19 complaints had been registered against Kelly in six years, according to the LaPorta family’s lawsuit. At least eight more allegedly followed. The complaints included claims of excessive force, racial bias, domestic violence and battery.
Romanucci pointed Monday to critical reviews of CPD by the Police Accountability Task Force and the Justice Department to bolster his case that the department protects officers like Kelly. He even quoted Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who acknowledged the “Code of Silence” in a December 2015 speech.
Meanwhile, it’s still not clear exactly what happened the night LaPorta was shot. The judge presiding over the case once wrote that the details are “as blurry as the alcohol-fueled evening” that preceded it.
Romanucci explained to jurors that LaPorta wound up at Kelly’s home after a long night of drinking. Authorities later determined Kelly’s blood-alcohol content was between 0.17 and 0.24 when LaPorta was shot — two to three times the legal driving limit.
The shooting happened some time around 4:30 a.m.
“Only two people were inside the house when this happened,” Romanucci said.