Judge acquits Chicago cop in shooting of unarmed man at CTA Red Line station, saying victim not credible on stand

Officer Melvina Bogard argued she was trying to protect herself when she shot Ariel Roman on Feb. 28, 2020, but Roman’s attorney contended the officer’s claim “completely contradicts the clear video evidence.”

SHARE Judge acquits Chicago cop in shooting of unarmed man at CTA Red Line station, saying victim not credible on stand
Chicago police Officers Melvina Bogard and Bernard Butler struggle to arrest Ariel Roman at the Grand Avenue Red Line station in February 2020. After Roman broke free from Butler and ran up an escalator, Bogard shot him twice, wounding him.

Chicago Police Officers Melvina Bogard and Bernard Butler struggle to arrest Ariel Roman at the Grand Avenue Red Line station in February 2020. After Roman wrestled free from Butler, Bogard shot him twice.

Chicago Police Department

A Chicago police officer was acquitted Tuesday of felony charges in the 2020 shooting of an unarmed man during an arrest at a CTA Red Line station, with a Cook County judge repeatedly saying he did not find the victim credible on the stand.

Officer Melvina Bogard faced charges of aggravated battery and official misconduct for shooting Ariel Roman at the Grand Avenue station platform. She claimed she was trying to protect herself when she fired at Roman as he ran up the stairs at the station after breaking away from her and her partner.

In handing down a not guilty verdict, Judge Joseph Claps said prosecutors failed to prove their case during a bench trial and that Roman had “zero credibility” on the stand.

In a 20-minute ruling, Claps focused nearly entirely on allegations leveled against Roman and only briefly mentioned the officer on trial. Claps called Roman’s explanations for resisting the officers absurd and suggested Roman had committed perjury.

Roman’s “story changes so many times, he can’t even keep track,” Claps said.

Supporters of Bogard cheered loudly from the gallery of the courtroom when the judge announced the ruling, despite his warning that anyone reacting to the verdict would be removed. At least two people were asked to leave by sheriff’s deputies.

An attorney for Roman said afterward that the verdict “was a failure of our criminal justice system.” Attorney Andrew Stroth vowed to continue a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city to “get justice for Ariel in that process.”

Bogard’s attorney, Tim Grace, told reporters “it wasn’t a day to celebrate,” and said the shooting was the result of an unfortunate change in society “where citizens can believe they do not have to follow the lawful orders of police officers.”

Grace pinned fault for the shooting on Roman for ignoring commands from the officers when they tried to take him into custody.

Bogard, he said, had followed her training as an officer who was hired to “keep the trains safe to allow us to live, to go back and forth to work every day without guys like Roman, with cocaine and marijuana, going in and out of the trains. We pay her to stop that.”

Bogard and her partner, Officer Bernard Butler, were detailed to a unit to prevent crime on the CTA on Feb. 28, 2020, when they spotted Roman moving between cars while the train was running, prosecutors said before the trial.

Roman told the officers he suffered from anxiety and was trying to get away from a commuter who was bothering him.

But Claps called that explanation absurd.

“I don’t see any anxiety,” Claps said after viewing video of the encounter, adding that Roman simply didn’t “pay attention to one command given to him. Not one.”

When the train stopped at the Grand Avenue station, the officers told Roman to get off and repeatedly asked for his identification, prosecutors said. The officers began struggling with Roman as he refused their commands, with Bogard repeatedly telling Roman to “stop resisting” as she tried to handcuff him, prosecutors said.

Both officers deployed their stun guns early in the encounter, and Bogard also used pepper spray, which affected Roman as well as Bogard’s partner, prosecutors said. 

Roman “grabs a Taser, that makes him a threat. He grabs the handcuffs,” Claps said. The judge questioned whether the spray and stun gun had little effect on Roman, citing evidence he had cocaine and alcohol in his system.

“Is that because of the cocaine and the alcohol? I dunno,” Claps said.

Roman was eventually able to stand up before he was held by Butler, who commanded Bogard to “shoot him,” according to Assistant State’s Attorney Ken Goff. Bogard allegedly placed her handcuffs in her duty belt and pulled her gun on Roman as she stepped back. 

Roman, who began wiping his eyes, stepped toward Bogard when she fired the first shot into his chest, Goff said. Roman then ran up an escalator toward the station’s main concourse when Bogard allegedly fired the second shot, striking him in his buttocks. 

Roman was taken into custody and charged with resisting arrest and drug violations after he was found in possession of several ounces of marijuana and a small amount of cocaine. Those charges were dropped.

Claps, in his ruling, said it was “obvious” why Roman avoided the officers and resisted arrest and said that Roman had “committed at least four or five felonies.”

Supporters of Roman and his attorneys on Tuesday criticized State’s Attorney Kim Foxx for only charging Bogard with the first shot she fired at Roman and not the second.

“Anyone who looks at this video, I believe, would agree that someone who is turning and running for his life, with no weapon, no challenge to the officer [is] just trying to save his life,” attorney Greg Kulis said.

“And an officer chases him down and shoots him in the back, and Kim Foxx ignores that, the court ignores that, and our system pretends that never occurred,” he said.

A spokeswoman for Foxx declined to respond to Kulis’ statement but said the state’s attorney’s office “respects the court’s decision in the case.”

“As with every case, our office prosecutes cases based on the facts and evidence,” the spokeswoman said.

The Chicago Police Department moved to fire both Bogard and Butler last year, but a decision on Bogard is still pending a hearing before the police board.

“She’s going to have to deal with what happens at the police board, but based on that ruling, we’re really confident that she is fit for duty,” Grace said.

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