CPD officer used N-word, shared pictures when bragging about role in US Capitol riots: feds
Karol J. Chwiesiuk is at least the 10th person from Illinois charged in connection with the U.S. Capitol breach, and he is the fourth from the Chicago area.
A Chicago police officer used the N-word and shared pictures of himself inside U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley’s U.S. Capitol office when bragging in text messages about his role in the Jan. 6 breach, federal prosecutors said Friday.
Three days before the insurrection, Officer Karol J. Chwiesiuk allegedly messaged an associate, saying he was “busy planning how to f- - - up commies” during a conversation about unsuccessful lawsuits that had been filed to dispute the results of President Joe Biden’s election.
Chwiesiuk then allegedly traveled from Chicago to Washington D.C. by car and joined the mob that stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6. He was seen wearing a CPD hoodie in pictures taken at the riot, his criminal complaint shows.
Chwiesiuk, who is charged with five misdemeanor counts, was asked to surrender his FOID card Friday and not possess a weapon or keep weapons in his home while he awaits trial on an unsecured $15,000 bond. U.S. Judge Gabriel Fuentes also told Chwiesiuk he cannot travel to Washington.
Lightfoot: ‘A total disgrace’
Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Chicago Police Supt. David Brown took little time in condemning Chwiesiuk after his appearance in federal court.
Brown vowed not to “leave any rock unturned” to find officers with “like-minded beliefs” and “root them out of this department.”
“We have a zero tolerance for hate or extremism of any kind,” Brown said. “ ... If you harbor such ignorance, you should take off your star now and find another line of work. Or I will do it for you.”
Lightfoot called the charges against Chwiesiuk a “total disgrace.”
“This isn’t about one police officer charged with a heinous assault on our democracy,” she said. It’s about sending a “clear and unequivocal message” that “we will have no tolerance for hate. Period.”
Chwiesiuk allegedly bragged that he “knocked out a commie last night” in a Jan. 6 text message. He also took photos of himself at the Capitol — including inside the building — while wearing a tan hoodie with a Chicago police logo on the breast, according to the complaint.
In another message, Chwiesiuk wrote, “There’s so many blacks here I’m actually in disbelief” and in a message the following week about being inside the Capitol, he wrote “N- - - a don’t snitch,” the complaint alleges.
A selfie Chwiesiuk sent in a text message during the riot appears to show him inside Merkley’s office. Chwiesiuk was also identified as being inside the Capitol in several other photographs.
Relieved of police powers
Chwiesiuk was relieved of his police powers on June 2 — as soon as Brown said he was alerted to the charges against Chwiesiuk and hung up the phone with the feds.
Chwiesiuk was hired by the CPD in December 2018 and lives on the Northwest Side with his parents, according to his attorney, Tim Grace, a lawyer for the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7 that represents rank-and-file CPD officers. He previously worked as a deputy with the Cook County sheriff’s office.
Most recently, Chwiesiuk was assigned to the Harrison District on the West Side, Grace said.
Courts records show Chwiesiuk was sued in January by two Uber passengers who said he injured them when he struck their rideshare car while driving a police vehicle on Oct. 19 near Kedzie Avenue and Jackson Boulevard. The passengers are seeking more than $30,000 from Chwiesiuk, accusing him of negligence, according to the suit, which also names the city of Chicago, Uber and their driver.
Brown said there were no misconduct allegations against Chwiesiuk. Chwiesiuk was named an “Officer of the Month” in 2019, the same year he received a crime reduction award from the department, in addition other “honorable mentions,” Grace said in court.
“I believe he’s on the list for a commendation that’s coming down,” Grace said.
Brown said Chwiesiuk was on medical leave when he traveled to Washington to participate in the storming of the Capitol.
Brown noted that Chwiesiuk was among more than a thousand officers added during a “hiring push” by former Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who reversed course when crime surged after years of relying on runaway overtime to mask a severe manpower shortage.
Such fast-paced hiring inevitably results in hiring people who “never should have been hired,” the superintendent said.
“It’s better to go slower and vet” police recruits, Brown said at the news conference with Lightfoot.
Flanked by civic and religious leaders, including the Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr., presidents of the Chicago Urban League and the Jewish United Fund and representatives from the LGBTQ and South Asian communities, Lightfoot said the Capitol riot was “fomented” by former President Donald Trump whom could not accept defeat “in an election he lost.
“We all watched in horror as these domestic terrorists … defiled our Capitol building” while Trump “said little to nothing to stop” the riot “he incited,” she said.
Mayor blasts union president
The mayor also could not resist the temptation to call out Fraternal Order of Police President John Catanzara, with whom she has had constant battles. She recalled that Catanzara “took it upon himself to defend” the Capitol rioters and only took it back after learning that a Capitol police officer had died during the siege and being sanctioned by the National FOP.
“He blew a dog whistle on that day that was heard and answered,” the mayor said of Catanazara. “We will not tolerate this. … You will not be paid to be a hateful member of our community.”
The mayor said she has ordered a thorough review of social media platforms to root out what she called “white bigots and nationalists” and make certain that the city’s anti-hate edicts are strictly enforced.
Lightfoot bristled when asked whether that was tantamount to conducting a political witch hunt.
“Being a hateful bigot is not a political view. Being a hateful bigot is the antithesis of who we are as a country,” the mayor said.
Chwiesiuk is at least the 10th person from Illinois charged in connection with the U.S. Capitol breach, and he is the fourth on that list from the Chicago area. Earlier this week, federal authorities charged Christian Kulas, of Kenilworth, in connection with the breach.
Federal prosecutors in Washington, D.C., also filed a superseding indictment this week against Kevin J. Lyons that leveled additional charges against the Chicago man originally charged in January for his alleged role in the breach.
Hundreds of people have been charged nationwide in connection with the riot at the Capitol, and a staggering amount of evidence has been collected. Prosecutors have said it will likely amount to the largest investigation in U.S. history.