Opening statements in the trial of a four-time felon charged with murdering decorated Chicago Police Cmdr. Paul Bauer are expected to begin Tuesday.
Cook County prosecutors say Bauer, a 31-year CPD veteran, was shot by Shomari Legghette as the two men struggled in a stairwell outside the Thompson Center in February 2018.
Legghette, 46, faces a life sentence if jurors find him guilty. In addition to 24 counts of first-degree murder, Legghette was also charged with multiple weapons- and drug-related charges.
Jurors in the high-profile case were selected over two days last week from an extra-large jury pool.
Judge Erica Reddick will allow cameras in the courtroom for opening statements Tuesday, as well as closing arguments and the verdict.
To accommodate an expected crowd of Bauer’s fellow officers, the trial has been moved from Reddick’s small, glass-encased “fishbowl” courtroom to one of her peer’s larger courtrooms at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse.
Legghette is expected to make the case that he shot 53-year-old Bauer in self-defense — a trial strategy that often involves the defendant taking the witness stand.
Evidence has emerged during pre-trial hearings since Legghette was arrested two years ago seconds after bursting out of a stairwell with a gun in his pocket, while Bauer’s body lie on stairway landing. Witnesses and surveillance camera footage lay out the fateful minutes that bracketed the discovery of Bauer’s body, but only Legghette can speak to what happened in Bauer’s final moments.
That afternoon around 1:30 p.m. plainclothes officers said they noticed Legghette who appeared to be urinating on a support column on Lower Wacker Drive. When an officer called out to Legghette, he said Legghette took off running — prompting a call out over police radio that sent officers swarming through the Loop’s government complex. Bauer, in uniform, was leaving a City Hall briefing, and joined the chase, spotting Legghette coming out of the stairwell, according to pre-trial testimony.
The two men struggled, and Bauer either stumbled or was pulled down the steps. Witnesses recount hearing multiple gun shots seconds before Legghette again popped out of the stairwell. Bauer, his gun still holstered, was found on the landing with seven gunshot wounds to his body.
Legghette was wearing body armor under his jacket, and was carrying a 9-millimeter Glock pistol with an extended magazine, as well as heroin, marijuana and cocaine, prosecutors said.