Eddie Johnson got police escort home after found slumped over the wheel, city inspector general says
The former Chicago police superintendent was fired Dec. 2 after Mayor Lori Lightfoot said he lied about the October incident.
After then-police Supt. Eddie Johnson was found slumped over the wheel of his car last fall on the South Side, a police supervisor followed his intoxicated boss home as Johnson rolled through a stop sign and turned into the wrong lane, according to a new city inspector general’s report.
Inspector General Joseph Ferguson’s report offers the most detail yet of the scandal that led to Johnson’s firing on Dec. 2. He was demoted to lieutenant and retired.
Johnson lied to the mayor when he said he had a “couple of drinks” but pulled over at 34th and Aberdeen because he felt ill, the report said. Johnson had received a kidney transplant in 2017.
Ferguson’s report, released Thursday, said Johnson and his female driver drank large quantities of rum at a downtown restaurant on the evening of Oct. 16. He drove to police headquarters and dropped her off, and she drove away.
He was in his car when someone called 911 to report a man asleep in his running vehicle. Officers arrived at 12:33 a.m. on Oct. 17. As has been previously reported, a cop walked to his window and asked “Sir, you alright?” and “You good, you have your ID?” and Johnson showed his ID through the window. “You just sitting here or you wanna go home?” the cop asked and Johnson said, “I’m good.” “You good, alright sir, you have a good night,” the cop responded.
The exchange was captured on the officer’s body camera, and the video was released by the city last month.
The inspector general’s report says a Chicago firefighter was on the other side of the car and asked “Hey, what’s going on?” and then walked away.
No field sobriety test was done on Johnson and the officer who spoke to him deactivated his body camera. At 12:38 a.m., two more police cars arrived on the scene. One called a dispatcher for a supervisor, who arrived at 12:43 a.m. in an unmarked car.
The supervisor walked to Johnson’s car and the other officers got in their cars and left. At 12:46 a.m., Johnson drove away, initially traveling in the opposite direction from his South Side home. During the ride, Johnson rolled through a stop sign and made a slow, wide turn into a wrong lane, the inspector general’s report said.
Meanwhile, two police cars showed up at Johnson’s home.
According to the report, Johnson not only lied that he wasn’t intoxicated, but also lied when he said he referred the incident to the CPD’s internal affairs investigators, which never happened.
Ferguson considered Johnson’s behavior so egregious, he not only recommended that he be fired and placed on the city’s do-not-hire list, he also recommended Johnson be “found not in good standing and not issued Illinois Retired Officer Concealed Carry credentials.”
On the day Johnson was fired, sources told the Chicago Sun-Times that multiple police employees were under investigation for engaging in a widespread cover-up to protect him. Ferguson’s new report appears to provide more evidence of that – including a call to a dispatcher a minute after the superintendent left the scene saying no police action was needed.
Ferguson’s report said the city has until July 28 to respond to his findings. He’ll release another report about whether the police department takes action against any other officers because of the Johnson incident.
The city’s Law Department has refused to release Ferguson’s full report to the media. The information released Thursday was a summary contained in a quarterly report that described other investigations, too.
Johnson and his lawyer Tom Needham declined to comment on Thursday’s report.
Ald. Chris Taliaferro (29th), the former CPD officer now chairing the City Council’s Committee on Public Safety, responded Thursday to the cover-up narrative described in the inspector general’s report.
“If the allegations are found to be true — and as of right now, they have not been found to be true — it would be very egregious and certainly worthy of discipline,” Taliaferro said.
Taliaferro said he would await Ferguson’s final report on the responding officers before passing final judgment.
“If a window was rolled up and [Johnson] presented his ID, the officers may not have smelled alcohol because the windows were rolled up. So it’s important that we opine on the report that’s going to be released after the investigation has been completed, rather than to assume that all of the allegations are true at this point. They’re not. They’re simply allegations,” he said.
Asked if the supervisor who followed Johnson home faces discipline, the police department issued a statement that it is “reviewing the Office of Inspector General’s investigation report into personnel that responded to the October 2019 incident involving Mr. Eddie Johnson. The Department will take any necessary disciplinary measures upon their complete review of that report.”