Cop quits on eve of hearing for inaction in Puerto Rico shirt harassment
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Officer Patrick Connor was supposed to explain “the whole story” to his bosses Thursday about why he stood idly by as an allegedly drunk man verbally assaulted a woman at a Northwest Side forest preserve.
Instead, Connor quit the job the night before.
The 10-year veteran officer resigned late Wednesday, according to Cook County Forest Preserve District officials, rather than fight to keep his badge over the encounter that has been recorded and viewed millions of times, drawing international scorn for Connor’s inaction while an aggressive, finger-pointing loudmouth berated a woman wearing a shirt bearing the Puerto Rican flag.
Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia called Connor’s resignation “a commonsense decision after his inaction and failure to serve Cook County.
“However, this still leaves many questions unanswered,” Garcia said in a statement. “Cook County Government must not only review the types of trainings that officers and staff in all departments receive, but how they are implemented and held accountable.”
Forest preserve officials said they “are further addressing aspects of this incident” and would release more details at a press conference Thursday morning.
Hours before Connor’s resignation, the top lawyer for the union that represents forest preserve officers had urged the public to “be patient” before making a judgment.
“The video does not look good, but anybody who is a football fan knows that the video does not tell the whole story,” said Tamara Cummings, general counsel for the Illinois Fraternal Order of Police Labor Council. “We still don’t know what happened outside the video. We don’t know what was going on inside his head.”
After Mia Irizarry posted a 36-minute video of the confrontation in Caldwell Woods on Facebook last month, edited versions began bouncing around social media platforms. Millions watched the flap, before it reached a critical mass that resulted in international headlines and widespread condemnation this week.
Connor, who had been reassigned to desk duty following the June 14 incident, had been scheduled to attend an internal affairs disciplinary hearing on Thursday to answer questions posed to him by a commanding officer, Cook County Commissioner Larry Suffredin said.
They planned to try to get Connor to clarify why he didn’t respond to Irizarry’s pleas for help as 62-year-old Timothy Trybus berated her. And they wanted to know why Connor apparently stopped Irizarry’s brother when he tried to intervene.
Depending on their finding, Forest Preserves Police Chief Kelvin Pope could have suspended Connor without pay or fired him.
More officers eventually arrived and the woman was able to file a police report. Trybus, who according to the police report was drunk at the time, was charged with assault and disorderly conduct. But the Chicago Sun-Times reported Tuesday that authorities are considering whether to upgrade the charge to a hate crime.
Irizarry told the officers Trybus “approached her and made rude comments” while she was setting up for a picnic, and then Trybus “got in her face while pointing a finger at her,” according to the police report.
In the video, Connor watched as Trybus said things like “Are you a citizen? Then you should not be wearing that,” and “I would like to know is she an American citizen? Why is she wearing that s—?”
Connor had been “very stressed” in the wake of the viral video, according to Cummings, the union lawyer.
“But he’s very eager to cooperate with the investigation and get the whole story out there,” Cummings said hours before the resignation announcement. She couldn’t immediately be reached for comment after the statement that Connor had quit.
On Tuesday, politicians from Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle to Ricardo Rossello, the governor of Puerto Rico, condemned Connor’s idleness.
On Wednesday, Cook County Commissioner Luis Arroyo Jr. said residents, especially his constituents in Humboldt Park, many with Puerto Rican heritage, should settle for nothing less than Connor being kicked off the police force.
“He repeatedly let this man approach this young lady, and yet when her brother tried to intervene, he told him to step back,” Arroyo said.
Garcia joined that chorus, issuing a statement Wednesday calling for charges against Trybus to be upgraded to a hate crime. Officials said Tuesday that prosecutors were reviewing the case.
“A charge for simple assault or disorderly conduct is not sufficient, this incident must be investigated and charged as a hate crime,” Garcia wrote.
Irizarry had rented a forest preserve pavilion to celebrate her 24th birthday and was issued a permit for the event. After the ordeal, she was issued a refund, and the county gave Irizarry zoo passes to the Brookfield Zoo, which is owned by the Cook County Forest Preserve District.