Under pressure from city’s watchdog, CPD reopens probe of cop who wore extremist symbol during racial justice protest

This marks at least the third time Chicago’s inspector general has pressed the police department to take a closer look at an officer’s far-right links.

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Officer Kyle Mingari was seen wearing a face mask with a Three Percenters symbol while working at a racial justice protest on June 6, 2020.

Officer Kyle Mingari was seen wearing a face mask with a Three Percenters symbol while working at a racial justice protest on June 6, 2020.

CBS Chicago

Chicago police officials are reopening an investigation into an officer who has so far avoided any discipline for sporting an extremist symbol during a racial justice protest in 2020 — marking at least the third time the city’s watchdog has pressured the department to take a closer look at an officer’s far-right links.

Officer Kyle Mingari was on duty and assigned to the protest when he was photographed wearing a face mask bearing the logo of the Three Percenters, a group allied with the anti-government militia movement.

The term Three Percenters refers to the disproven claim that just 3% of Americans fought the British in the Revolutionary War, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. Adherents believe a small, armed contingent can overthrow government forces they view as tyrannical.

As the police department’s Bureau of Internal Affairs was investigating Mingari, reputed Three Percenters were charged in both the riot at the U.S. Capitol in January 2021 and a plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

Investigators, however, mischaracterized some of the kidnapping suspects as “far left” and there’s no record that Mingari was interviewed about the mask or his possible connections to extremists, according to records obtained by the Sun-Times.

The investigation has already been closed twice, with no action taken against Mingari, but it was recently reopened at the request of Inspector General Deborah Witzburg, according to a police spokesperson, who declined to comment further.

Rachel Goldwasser, who researches domestic extremism at the law center, said reopening the investigation is the right move.

“Once a member of law enforcement becomes extreme and holds these particular viewpoints, there really is very little chance that they’re going to remain sort of unbiased and treat all citizens equally,” she said.

‘They like the design’

The action comes weeks after City Council members grilled police officials about their handling of investigations targeting officers connected to the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers, whose leaders have been accused of — and in some cases convicted of — seditious conspiracy in connection to the Capitol riot.

The inspector general’s office previously pushed internal affairs to reopen other investigations into Officer Robert Bakker, an associate of the Proud Boys, and Officer Phillip Singto, who claimed to have quit the Oath Keepers after being a member of the militia group for years.

Bakker was suspended for 120 days following a lengthy investigation into his close ties to the Proud Boys, a neofascist group known for engaging in public violence. Amid calls for his dismissal, police leaders have publicly offered puzzling explanations for how his case was resolved and why he didn’t face stiffer discipline.

Internal Affairs Deputy Chief Traci Walker also conceded to alderpersons last month that investigators had failed to investigate most of the 13 Chicago cops identified by National Public Radio as Oath Keepers, an anti-government militia that aggressively recruits cops and armed service members.

Records obtained by the Sun-Times show that Singto and two other officers were investigated and none of them were disciplined.

Mingari’s case was opened on June 8, 2020 after a CBS-2 producer sent police photos showing the officer wearing the Three Percenters face mask beneath his blue helmet.

The station reported that the photos were taken two days earlier at a protest near the LaSalle Street bridge — just weeks after the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis set off violent demonstrations and looting across the city.

PROTEST_060720_16__1_.jpg

Chicago police officers walk by a boarded up business that has painted on it Black Lives Matter, while following a Black Lives Matter protest on Ashland Ave., Saturday, June 6, 2020.

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Times

The investigation was launched into Mingari’s potential “conduct unbecoming violations” and associations with felons, but officials apparently didn’t question him about his beliefs or connections, according to records.

Later that June, the investigation was scuttled when Timothy Moore, a police lieutenant assigned to an FBI task force, relayed “expert information” from the agency: The Three Percenters weren’t “considered an extremist militia group” by federal officials, and Moore didn’t believe “further investigation” was needed.

Moore claimed law enforcement officers displayed the Three Percenters logo “because they like the design and not because of what it represents.”

Investigator Sergio Velazquez, who had led the Bakker probe, reported that he “would not be able to address the accused with a uniform deficiency” while closing out the Mingari case.

The investigation was reopened in October 2020 when more than a dozen people were arrested in a plot to kidnap Gov. Whitmer. A subsequent federal indictment noted that two of the suspects were affiliated with the Three Percenters movement. They were ultimately sentenced to 19 and 16 years in prison, though prosecutors had sought to lock them both up for life.

Others ensnared in the investigation were linked to the Wolverine Watchmen, a militia “with similar anti-government views” as the Three Percenters, according to the indictment. The Wolverine Watchmen have reportedly been linked to the far-right Boogaloo movement, which seeks to spark a second civil war.

But an October 2020 memo written by Moore, by then promoted to commander of the Bureau of Internal Affairs, includes conflicting — and questionable — information.

Citing a conversation with an FBI agent, Moore characterized the Wolverine Watchmen as a “far left group that’s anti-law enforcement” and not typically known as Three Percenters, though he acknowledged some members “refer to themselves as [Three Percenters] for unknown reasons.”

“Law enforcement officers that refer to themselves as [Three Percenters] are pro-law enforcement and are associated with a far right group,” wrote Moore, who records indicate is no longer with the police department.

Citing that memo, Velazquez wrote to Moore and then-Internal Affairs Chief Karen Konow requesting to close the case again in January 2021, just weeks after a mob stormed the U.S. Capitol.

Within months, federal authorities hit several Three Percenters with conspiracy charges related to the breach.

Lengthy disciplinary record

Goldwasser, from the Southern Poverty Law Center, said some of the claims by investigators in the Mingari case are clearly “refutable.”

She singled out the assertion that the Wolverine Watchmen is a left-wing group, noting that only one of the suspects could potentially be referred to as an anarchist.

She also noted that around the time Mingari was caught wearing the Three Percenters mask at the demonstration downtown, there was “huge opposition” to the Black Lives Matter movement among anti-government extremists.

“Under the guise of protecting businesses … there were multiple sort of militias and Three Percenter groups that were very much intimidating protesters at the time,” she said. “So it seems like it very much went beyond just like protection of property.”

Mingari has a lengthy disciplinary record that includes 23 other complaints, but he has only been suspended once. In that case involving a traffic stop in September 2011, he agreed to a one-day suspension amid allegations he conducted an ‘“inappropriate strip search” and threatened to “f--- up” someone he pushed up against a car.

He has also been named in at least seven lawsuits that have cost the city more than $630,000, according to federal court and city Law Department records. In the largest settlement, the city paid out $319,000 to Vincent Parks Jr., whom Mingari shot during a stop in a McDonald’s parking lot in Austin in June 2009, according to that suit.

Mingari remains on active duty in the gang investigation division, a police spokesperson said. He earns an annual salary of $104,934, not including overtime.

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