Charges dropped against officer accused of striking handcuffed man who allegedly fired at other cops

Prosecutors dropped felony aggravated battery and official misconduct charges against Officer Christopher Hillas after a grand jury declined to indict him in the December incident in University Village.

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A Chicago police car.

Sun-Times files

Charges have been dropped against a Chicago police officer accused of a repeatedly punching a handcuffed man who was also wounded in a police-involved shooting last year in University Village.

Cook County prosecutors dropped felony aggravated battery and official misconduct charges against 43-year-old Officer Christopher Hillas at a hearing earlier this week at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse, just weeks after Hillas was charged.

A spokeswoman for State’s Attorney Kim Foxx said prosecutors chose to drop the charges after a grand jury declined to indict Hillas last week.

The spokeswoman did not respond when asked if the office would seek different charges against Hillas or bring the case before another grand jury in the future.

As of Tuesday, Hillas was still relieved of his police powers, a spokesman for the Chicago Police Department said.

Hillas was placed on desk duty on Dec. 31 — a week after he allegedly struck Nokomis Jefferson four times in the groin with a closed fist following an exchange of gunfire between Jefferson and two other officers on Christmas Eve, police officials said previously.

On that day, officers who were monitoring a Chicago Housing Authority surveillance camera say they saw Jefferson remove a gun from his waistband and hold it at his side, prosecutors previously said.

When two officers approached Jefferson in the 1300 block of West Hastings Street, he ran and fired at the officers multiple times, prosecutors said.

No officers were injured or struck by the gunfire.

Jefferson eventually ran to a parking lot at the Near West District police station, placed his hands on a car and was taken into custody, officials said.

It was later determined that he had been shot by officers during the incident, prosecutors said.

Jefferson was charged with attempted murder and remains held without bail at the Cook County Jail, records show.

At Hillas’ bond hearing on Feb. 17, prosecutors said Jefferson was about to be placed inside a squad car when Hillas opened the squad car’s door and said, “Here, I got ya man,” and began to pat down Jefferson.

After he repeatedly struck Jefferson, other officers pulled Hillas away, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors did not say at the hearing whether Hillas or other officers on the scene knew Jefferson also had been shot at that time.

Hillas punched Jefferson because he believed he was about to be attacked, defense attorney Tim Grace said at the hearing, and noted that the gun Jefferson allegedly used in the shooting had not been located at the time.

Grace said Hillas had arrived at the station for work and was checking to make sure Jefferson didn’t have a concealed weapon.

As Hillas conducted the search, Jefferson’s stomach touched Hillas’ head, leading the officer to believe an attack was about to begin, Grace said.

Hillas stood up quickly and struck his head against another officer’s head, but believed he was struck by Jefferson and had to defend himself, Grace said.

Grace did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

Police officials referred the matter to the Civilian Office of Police Accountability, which investigates allegations of misconduct by officers.

Fraternal Order of Police President John Catanzara praised Hillas for his actions Tuesday and said Hillas had done nothing wrong.

“I applaud [Hillas] for getting involved,” Catanzara said.

Catanzara said the grand jury’s decision in Hillas’ case showed the state’s attorney office was “overreaching” when they charged Hillas and said COPA “should take a lead from the grand jury.”

A spokesman for COPA said their investigation was ongoing.

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