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COPA concludes investigation into police shooting at Grand Red Line station

Ariel Roman, who was unarmed, was shot twice at the River North train station on Feb. 28 after two CPD officers saw him passing between train cars.

Michael McDunnah’s cellphone video captured a police shooting at the CTA’s Grand Red Line station on Feb. 28.
CPD officers Melvina Bogard and Bernard Butler could be seen struggling to arrest Ariel Roman while the three were on the Grand Red Line station platform last February. After Roman wrestled free from Butler, Bogard shot him twice.
Screenshot from video

The Civilian Office of Police Accountability announced Tuesday it had concluded its investigation into the “extremely disturbing” shooting of an unarmed man by a Chicago Police officer at River North CTA train station last February.

COPA, the agency that investigates use of force by CPD officers, said it had forwarded its findings and recommendations to CPD Supt. David Brown. If COPA believes one or both officers should be disciplined, Brown would have 30 days to decide whether to bring administrative charges against them.

COPA didn’t say what its findings and recommendations were, though it’s likely the agency called for severe punishments for the two officers. Just days after the shooting occurred, COPA suggested the department strip both officers of their police powers — a move carried out by then-Interim CPD Supt. Charlie Beck.

Shortly after 4 p.m. on Feb. 28, officers Melvina Bogard and Bernard Butler — who’ve both been with the CPD for less than three years and were assigned to the department’s Mass Transit Unit — tried to arrest Ariel Roman after he was seen walking between cars on a northbound Red Line train.

Roman exited the train at the Grand Station and followed by the two officers. Bogard and Butler tried to arrest him at the foot of the stairs that led up to the station’s main concourse, but Roman struggled with Butler and was eventually able to stand up. Video footage showed two deployed stun guns laying on the station’s floor.

As Roman regained his footing, Butler repeatedly told Bogard to shoot. She fired one round at Roman while he stood just a few feet away from her at the base of the stairs. After the first shot, Roman ran up the escalator, and Bogard fired again.

In another video clip — captured by a CTA security camera — dozens of transit riders can be seen running for the station’s exits at the sound of gunfire. Before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Grand station was one of the busiest in the CTA’s rail system, and the shooting occurred shortly before the start of Friday evening rush hour.

Roman was shot once in the hip and once in the buttocks, according to his attorneys. He was taken into custody after the shooting and briefly faced resisting arrest and narcotics charges.

At Beck’s behest, the Cook County state’s attorney’s office dropped those charges and opened a review of the shooting with the FBI. It remains unclear if either officer will face criminal charges, and a spokeswoman for the state’s attorney’s office said Tuesday “the matter is under review.”

A passerby captured much of the shooting on cellphone video. The footage was posted to Twitter and quickly spread on social media before the CPD issued its first statement on the shooting. In April, COPA released several more video clips of the shooting.

Hours after the shooting, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said in a tweet that “with the strong caveat that one perspective does not depict the entirety of the incident, the video is extremely disturbing and the actions by these officers are deeply concerning.”

The shooting came amid several high-profile criminal incidents on the CTA. Just hours before Bogard opened fire, Lightfoot and Beck joined CTA president Dorval Carter to announce a new security plan for the mass transit system.

Roman has since filed a lawsuit against both officers and the city, which is pending. One of his attorneys, Andrew M. Stroth, said the shooting left Roman with permanent injuries.

“Mr. Roman was unarmed and did not present a threat and he was almost killed,” Stroth said.