Chicago cops phonied up time of ‘first’ gun arrest of 2019, a case that made national news
The police singled out Darrell Rhyme as last year’s first gun offender, a symbol of the city’s gun problems. But the charges were dropped. And an internal probe found officers falsified the time he was busted.
In 2019, when the Chicago Police Department pulled guns off the streets at a rate of more than one an hour, the police touted how the first gun arrest of the year took place just minutes into New Year’s Day.
But it turned out it wasn’t the first of the 4,095 gun arrests last year by Chicago police officers after all. And the charges were dropped.
The only punishment that resulted from the case went to the officers who filed the arrest report.
A police report said Darrell Rhyme was arrested after fleeing from a traffic stop in West Woodlawn and that he was taken into custody at 12:01 a.m. Jan. 1, 2019. A police database logged it at 12:02 a.m. — the timestamp spokesman Anthony Guglielmi used when tweeting about the 9mm pistol found in a double-parked Cadillac that the police said Rhyme had bolted from.
That New Year’s Day, a police news release with Rhyme’s mugshot called him the first gun arrest of the year — news that was widely reported in Chicago and nationally. Guglielmi’s tweet included Rhyme’s photo, a picture of the gun and a line about Rhyme having been “already back on the street” following a gun arrest the previous June.
Two weeks later, the charges were dropped.
And after a four-month departmental investigation, the arresting officers — Matthew Sieber and Alejandro Ballesteros — and Sgt. Anton White, who signed off on the report, were given three-day suspensions for falsifying the time and date of Rhyme’s arrest.
Logs for the arresting officers’ body cameras showed that Rhyme actually was handcuffed 30 minutes before midnight that New Year’s Eve. So, rather than being the first gun arrest of 2019, Rhyme was among the last of 2018. Still free on bail for the June arrest, Rhyme walked out of jail Feb. 15.
“After reviewing related body worn camera videos related to the events [investigators] observed discrepancies between the apparent time of arrest and the time documented on reports,” an initial report from internal affairs said.
Guglielmi said the department announced Rhyme as the first arrest based on the time listed on the police report. Reports go through layers of approval, but it wasn’t clear what made internal affairs detectives check the report against the video.
“I don’t know how Internal Affairs became aware of [the time discrepancy] but it’s another example of CPD’s commitment to policing ourselves,” Guglielmi says.
As a repeat offender who was free on bail in a gun case at the time of his arrest, Rhyme was the type of offender former Supt. Eddie Johnson and other department brass frequently complained were the perpetrators of the majority of Chicago’s violent crimes.
With the falsified time listed for Rhyme’s arrest, the first gun offender of 2019 appears to have been 34-year-old Kevin Richardson. A department database shows Richardson was taken into custody at 12:01 a.m. that New Year’s Day.
Area North gang team officers said they chased down Richardson after seeing him fire a pistol in the air in an East Garfield Park alley.
Unlike Rhyme, the truck driver had no prior arrests or weapon convictions and appeared to have lived most of the past few years in St. Louis. Richardson pleaded guilty to reckless discharge of a firearm in November and got a year in prison.
As it turned out, Rhyme also rang in 2020 behind bars. Though his 2019 gun charges were dropped, he still faced trial for the 2018 gun arrest. On Dec. 23, he faced a bench trial before Cook County Circuit Judge Carol Howard.
Officers patrolling West Woodlawn said they pulled over a car Rhyme was in after it rolled through a stop sign at 64th Street and South Rhodes Avenue. The officers noted multiple “furtive” motions by Rhyme and the driver. They testified that they saw Rhyme make a move toward where a Glock 9mm handgun was found.
The driver sped off. After a short chase, the police again pulled over the car a few blocks away. Rhyme bolted, and police found a gun that was missing its magazine, plus $3,000 in cash, prosecutors said.
As he was being handcuffed, the officers said Rhyme asked, “Did you find the magazine to the gun?” When they didn’t answer, Rhyme said, “Yeah, I know. Because you ain’t that slick.”
As Howard prepared to rule, things seemed to be going Rhyme’s way — thanks to the officers’ body cameras. Howard told the officers their testimony about “furtive movements” wasn’t supported by the bodycams.
But the judge found Rhyme guilty of possession of a firearm by a felon and revoked bail in advance of sentencing.
Rhyme appeared stunned.
“Can I get out for Christmas, for the holiday?” he asked.
“No,” Howard told him, sending him back to jail.