An attorney who specializes in representing cops in court has warned the president of the Fraternal Order of Police about a federal investigation into shootings by Chicago Police officers.
Daniel Herbert, a former Chicago Police officer and former Cook County prosecutor, sent a letter Friday to FOP President Dean Angelo saying he learned the FBI and the U.S. attorney’s office were looking into “certain police-involved shootings, specifically ones in which an offender’s gun was not recovered.”
Herbert, the FBI and the U.S. attorney’s office declined comment.
But attorney Craig Sandberg said he knows the FBI investigated the fatal 2011 shooting of Flint Farmer.
Farmer’s girlfriend had called 911 to say he’d severely beaten her and her child. Officer Gildardo Sierra, who responded to the call, fired 16 shots at Farmer, authorities said. A video showed Sierra shoot Farmer three times in the back while Farmer lay on the ground.
Farmer was holding a cell phone — not a gun — when he was shot. The Cook County State’s Attorney’s office last year declined to file charges against Sierra, concluding that the officer feared for his life when he mistook the phone for a gun.
Sandberg represented Farmer’s estate in a lawsuit against the city, which agreed to settle the case for $4.1 million.
The FBI started investigating the shooting “almost from the beginning,” Sandberg said, adding that his law firm provided the FBI with materials that agents requested.
“I never heard they closed it,” Sandberg said of the FBI probe.
It’s unclear whether the Farmer shooting was among those cases Herbert referenced in his letter, which was first posted by SecondCityCop, a blog that focuses on news about Chicago Police officers.
The Independent Police Review Authority, which investigates police-involved shootings, wouldn’t comment on specifics of any federal probe.
But IPRA spokesman Larry Merritt said IPRA has “a working relationship with the FBI,” adding that “we will refer certain things to them on a case-by-case basis.”
In 2012, IPRAset up a protocol with the Civil Rights Squad of the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s office for referring cases for possible federal prosecution. At that time it said two cases were being pursued by the feds for possible charges.But the high bar for a successful federal prosecution — which would need to prove the intentional violation by police of a shooting victim’s civil rights — means federal charges in police-involved shootings are extremely rare nationwide.In his letter, Herbert — who was also a former in-house lawyer with the FOP — advised the FOP’s Angelo that Chicago Police officers are required to cooperate with law enforcement under department policy. But that doesn’t extend to criminal investigations involving the officers, Herbert wrote.
Herbert wrote that officers should always have a lawyer present when being interviewed by the FBI “since it is all but certain there may be multiple agents present.”
Angelo told the Sun-Times: “I have not heard from any member about being questioned by anybody. I just don’t want our members to walk into anything without realizing the protections that they have.”
Chicago Police officers fatally shot 13 people last year and 10 this year through Aug. 24, records show.
On Tuesday, police Supt. Garry McCarthy revealed that the Chicago Police Department has been testing body cameras, which could help clarify the chain of events leading to police-involved shootings and other police actions.
McCarthy says he endorses having officers wear the cameras, but the move would require negotiation with the FOP as well as approval of a budget for the devices.