A Chicago police officer and police academy instructor is facing felony charges for an off-duty shooting that wounded a man in Albany Park.
Kevin Bunge feared he was about to be the victim of a carjacking when he fired several rounds at a parked vehicle on Dec. 11 in the 3300 block of West Irving Park Road, his lawyer Tim Grace said Wednesday.
“He acted like a police officer,” the defense attorney repeatedly said in court.
The shooting is under investigation by the Civilian Office of Police Accountability, which investigates the use of police force.
Bunge told COPA investigators and Cook County prosecutors that he heard several gunshots before approaching the two men inside the vehicle. He claimed that one of the men pointed a gun at him.
But surveillance video from a nearby business contradicted at least some of Bunge’s claims, according to prosecutors.
The state’s attorney office declined to comment on the decision to file aggravated battery with a handgun and aggravated discharge of a handgun charges.
Bunge, 39, was sitting in his Jeep listening to an audiobook when he noticed the two men pull up behind him in a red car, prosecutors said.
After he said he heard gunshots, he got out of his Jeep with his personal weapon drawn and approached the car in a “tactical position,” prosecutors said.
Bunge fired a shot through the driver’s side window, striking the driver in the right hand, prosecutors said. The driver started speeding away backwards when Bunge allegedly fired a second shot that struck the car’s fender.
Bunge then called 911 to report the shooting.
Officers were also dispatched to a nearby 7-Eleven where the injured man drove after the shooting to also call 911. Two bullet holes were found in the car, prosecutors said. No weapons were recovered.
The injured man had to get surgery for his hand and is expected to undergo another procedure, prosecutors said.
Both he and the other man in the car filed a civil rights lawsuit against Bunge, claiming excessive force, the Chicago Sun-Times previously reported.
Video released by COPA last month showed that the occupants of the red car never got out of their vehicle after they parked. The video, which has no audio, shows Bunge approach the car two minutes after it pulled up and the car accelerating backward seconds after Bunge approached.
Bunge’s lawyer said his client was the victim of a previous carjacking attempt and noted that the Dec. 11 incident occurred a week after a retired Chicago firefighter was killed during a carjacking attempt on the Far South Side.
“The thoughts going through his mind is, ‘Why is the victim parked so close behind me and what are they doing?’” Grace said.
“He’s driving...a new Jeep. That’s high on the list of targets of carjackings ... that our city is actually plagued with.”
Bunge pulled out his CPD badge and announced he was an officer when he initially approached the car and inquired “Who’s shooting?” Grace said.
When Bunge allegedly saw a gun was pointed at him, he feared for his life and fired his own gun, the defense attorney said.
Bunge reported the shooting and cooperated with investigators afterward, Grace noted.
Bunge, whose father was also a CPD officer, previously served in the Marine Corps and as a Cook County sheriff’s correctional officer before joining the police department 8 years ago, Grace said. Bunge is currently assigned as an instructor for the department’s academy, teaching use of force procedure.
Judge John F. Lyke Jr. called the case “a head scratcher.”
“In this defendant’s mind, he heard a gunshot. The state is telling [us] that the video of it does not bear that out and that these two gentlemen were just parked behind him,” he said.
Lyke set Bunge’s bail at $10,000.
Lyke declined to rule on prosecutors’ request for Bunge to surrender all his firearms. He said another judge with more time could make that decision at Bunge’s next hearing on March 25.
Chicago police, in a statement, said Bunge was relieved of his police powers shortly after the shooting and could face additional disciplinary actions pending the outcome of the criminal and administrative investigations.