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CPD sergeant reassigned for not saying cop was victim after shooting: lawsuit

A 25-year veteran of the Chicago Police Department with numerous awards to his name was reassigned after he refused to classify a police shooting — one that left a developmentally disabled man wounded — as an aggravated assault to a police officer, according to a newly filed lawsuit.

Isaac Lambert joined the CPD in 1994 and was promoted to detective in 2006. Ten years later, he was promoted to detective sergeant and was assigned to Area South.

In a lawsuit filed Monday, he alleges that he was bumped down to the Patrol Division last month — at the order of the CPD’s Chief of Detectives — because he refused to say that an officer was a victim after that officer shot an unarmed, developmentally disabled man on the South Side in August 2017.

Officer Khalil Muhammad shot Ricardo “Ricky” Hayes, then 18, on Aug. 13, 2017, in the 10900 block of South Hermosa.

Security footage from a nearby home released last year shows Hayes running down the sidewalk before stopping near 10947 S. Hermosa. As he stops, Muhammad, who was off-duty and driving an SUV, parks his vehicle in the middle of the street.

No exchange of words can be heard on the video. Hayes can be seen taking four steps onto a parkway and toward Muhammad’s vehicle — but not into the street — before Muhammad opens fire, less than four seconds after he stopped his car. Two gunshots can be heard echoing down the block.

Hayes can then be seen running off. Muhammad exits his car to look for him, but returns to the SUV a short time later and drives off.

According to a lawsuit filed last year on behalf of Hayes, Muhammad was off-duty at the time and in his personal vehicle when he saw Hayes running and skipping down the street.

Just a few hours earlier, Hayes’ caretaker had reported him missing.

That lawsuit states that Hayes “functions at the cognitive level of a child, and he has difficulty communicating. Ricky looks much younger than his age, and his disabilities are immediately recognizable.”

Muhammad’s gunfire struck Hayes in the chest and arm, the suit stated. Muhammad eventually caught up with Hayes and ordered him to the ground and called an ambulance, the suit states.

Lambert alleges that Muhammad “was not able to provide a coherent or believable explanation for why he shot Ricardo.”

“We are very grateful, obviously, and respect this officer coming forward,” said Gabriel Hardy, the attorney representing Hayes. “It obviously takes a lot of courage coming forward.”

Lambert’s suit says that Hayes was brought to the Area South police station after he was released from the hospital and “there was a disagreement among the detectives working on this case about what to do with Ricardo.”

Some detectives, Lambert alleges, wanted Hayes to be charged with aggravated assault to a police officer because Muhammad said Hayes threatened him. Lambert thought otherwise.

“Against the wishes of other detectives and supervisors, Lambert ordered that Ricardo be released to his family without any charges,” the suit states. “Lambert’s decision was based on the facts of the case that were known to him at the time and included an assessment of Ricardo’s obvious and serious disabilities.”

In September 2018, the CPD received a Freedom of Information Act request for records related to the shooting. The detective’s reports, though, were still incomplete, according to Lambert’s lawsuit.

Lambert and another detective, Sonia French, were ordered to finish the reports. They were submitted to Melissa Staples, the chief of detectives, for review on Oct. 20, 2018.

In the report, French described Hayes as the “person reporting offense” and “involved individual.” Lambert approved of those labels and refused to change them, he alleges. “This effort was made to make the shooting of Ricardo Hayes by Khalil Muhammad appear to be justified, when in fact it was not.”

On Feb. 14, 2019, French’s final report was submitted, still containing the terms Lambert had previously approved of, the lawsuit states.

Five days later, Lambert was reassigned to the patrol division.

“Lambert asked why this was happening, but was only told by his commander that Chief Staples ordered it,” the suit states.

A spokesman for the city’s Law Department did not respond to a request for commend on the lawsuit. A representative for the Civilian Office of Police Accountability said Monday that the agency’s investigation of the shooting has been completed, though no disciplinary recommendations have been made yet.

The single-count lawsuit alleges a violation of the Illinois Whistleblower Act. Lambert is seeking more than $50,000 in damages and his reinstatement to the detective division “or to some other place within the CPD that is agreeable to him.”