Chicago cop faces trial in 2013 shooting at car that wounded 2 teens
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Officer Marco Proano appears suddenly on the dashcam video, bathed in blue police lights as he points his gun, holding it sideways.
Seconds later, the Chicago cop steps back as a stolen car reverses into view. Proano lifts his gun again — this time, with both hands, right-side up — and a flash can be seen on the video as he appears to open fire on the sedan full of teenagers.
One of the teens briefly is seen dangling from a car window. Another turned out to be operating the car with his hands, reaching from the back seat to work the pedals, records show. Though Proano later told authorities he fired his weapon that night in December 2013 to protect the dangling teenager, he ended up wounding two others.
Now, on Monday, Proano is set to go on trial in federal court. A grand jury indicted him a little less than a year ago on charges he violated the civil rights of the teenagers.
He has been suspended without pay from the Chicago Police Department.
The city’s Independent Police Review Authority recommended his firing, and the city settled with the wounded teens for $360,000.
Earlier this month, a former FBI special agent who investigated the shooting told Proano’s attorney in court that his client was “completely in the wrong for this shooting. Your client shot into a car full of teenagers.”
Proano’s lawyer, Daniel Herbert, declined to comment.
Herbert also represents Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke, who’s charged in state court with murder in the shooting death of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald. That case prompted a wide-ranging investigation of the Chicago Police Department by the Justice Department.
Prosecutors in the Proano case are seeking to bar any mention in that case of the Justice Department’s 164-page report, saying they feared the “potential of a mini-trial” over its findings.
Herbert has said Proano was justified in using deadly force to stop the reckless driver.
Another lawyer — who represented Proano in the civil case over the shooting — has said in court filings that, “a reasonable police officer objectively viewing the facts and circumstances that confronted defendant Proano could have believed his action to be lawful.”
As with the McDonald shooting, Proano’s wounding of the two teenagers was recorded by a police dashcam video. Retired Cook County Judge Andrew Berman released the video in June 2015. He presided over the juvenile court trial of one of the teenagers in the car and said he was incensed by the video.
One teenager was wounded in his left hip and right heel, records show. The other suffered a shoulder wound and also had graze wounds to his forehead and cheek.
Officer Ken Flaherty told a grand jury that, on Dec. 22, 2013, he and Officer Jonathan Morlock had been patrolling on 95th near LaSalle when they saw a Toyota speed out of an alley and turn south on LaSalle. The officers turned north on LaSalle, facing the Toyota.
Flaherty shined a spotlight into the Toyota, realizing then it was filled with at least six people. The Toyota’s driver suddenly got out and ran, with Morlock giving chase.
But the Toyota was still in drive, and it rolled until it became wedged between the police car and another parked vehicle. Another person tried to jump out of the front passenger seat and got trapped between the cars.
Flaherty said he ordered the car’s occupants not to move. Meanwhile, Proano arrived with Officer Guy Habiak, who echoed Flaherty’s commands.
A teenager in the back seat of the Toyota then “lunged forward,” reaching for the gas pedal with his hand, Flaherty said.
The teen then put the car in reverse, Flaherty said, and “it peeled away at a pretty good rate backwards.” That freed the person who had been stuck, and Flaherty said what turned out to be a BB gun fell to the ground.
Habiak grabbed it, and Flaherty said he also heard Habiak say, “Gun, here’s the gun, here’s the gun” as he handed it to Flaherty.
Flaherty said he didn’t hear Proano say anything, only gunfire as Proano fired on the car.
Investigators found that Proano fired 16 shots.
Flaherty said he never drew his gun during the incident and that neither he nor Habiak fired a single shot.