Federal authorities have opened a criminal investigation into a high-profile Chicago police shooting last year at a Red Line station that was caught on cellphone video, the Chicago Sun-Times has learned.
As the evening rush was starting on Feb. 28, 2020, Officer Melvina Bogard shot 34-year-old Ariel Roman on a platform at the Grand station, one of the city’s busiest train stops.
Roman was ordered to appear before a federal grand jury on Jan. 14 at the Dirksen Federal Building, according to a subpoena obtained by the Sun-Times. He was asked to provide medical records that stemmed from the shooting.
A letter signed by John Lausch, Chicago’s top federal prosecutor, noted those records were being sought “pursuant to an official criminal investigation.”
Roman’s shooting has prompted ongoing probes by the city and the Cook County state’s attorney, but the federal investigation hasn’t previously been reported. Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Fitzpatrick declined to comment, saying only that his office “can neither confirm nor deny the existence of an investigation.”
Before the police department was able to issue a statement about the shooting, video captured by a passerby went viral, fueling media attention and stoking public interest in the case.
Before the shooting, Bogard and her partner, Officer Bernard Butler, saw Roman moving between cars on a northbound Red Line. When Roman hopped off the train, the officers trailed him and tried to place him into custody at the foot of an escalator to the station’s main concourse.
During a struggle, Butler urged Bogard to shoot, and she fired once at Roman. Then, after Roman ran up the escalator, Bogard shot at him again. Video footage also showed two deployed stun guns laying on the station’s floor.
Roman suffered gunshot wounds to his hip and buttocks, and he was taken into custody and charged. Cook County prosecutors later dropped the resisting arrest and narcotics charges filed against him.
Andrew M. Stroth, one of Roman’s attorneys in a federal lawsuit against the officers and the city, said his client is still dealing with the fallout from the shooting. Over a year later, Roman has accrued roughly $500,000 in medical bills and still has a bullet lodged near his sciatic nerve, Stroth said.
“The video speaks for itself,” Stroth said. “Ariel Roman was unarmed and did not present a threat when he was shot by the officers.”
The shooting is also the subject of an “active review” by the state’s attorney’s office’s Law Enforcement Accountability Division, according to spokeswoman Tandra Simonton, who wouldn’t comment further.
In addition, sources said recommendations made by Chicago Police Supt. David Brown that could lead to administrative action against the two officers have been forwarded to the city’s Law Department, which prepares formal charges in police discipline cases.
A spokeswoman for the Law Department didn’t respond to questions from the Sun-Times. A CPD spokesman declined to comment on the federal criminal investigation.
Brown had until Dec. 29 to respond to recommendations made by the Civilian Office of Police Accountability and decide whether the two officers should face administrative charges in connection to the shooting.
COPA was expected to call for severe punishments for both Bogard and Butler. Just days after the shooting, COPA suggested the department strip both cops of their police powers, a move carried out by then-interim Supt. Charlie Beck.
Ephraim Eaddy, a COPA spokesman, said he was prohibited from disclosing the agency’s recommendations, which haven’t been made public. In addition, police spokesman Howard Ludwig couldn’t say whether Brown agreed with COPA’s findings or provide information about his response.
If the superintendent agrees with COPA in a disciplinary case, an officer is charged and faces an evidentiary hearing before the case is decided by the Chicago Police Board, a process that can take several years.
However, Eaddy noted his agency doesn’t know where exactly the case stands because the Law Department has “no defined timeline that I’m aware of that they have to do whatever their process requires.”