A federal appeals court Monday upheld the conviction of a Chicago police officer serving a five-year prison sentence for shooting into a car full of teenagers in December 2013, wounding two.
The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals concluded in a 23-page opinion that the “brazenness” of Marco Proano’s actions that night was enough to support the conclusion that, “despite the car not threatening anyone’s safety, Proano fired 16 shots at it, including several after the car began idling.”
Additionally, the court said, Proano disregarded his training by “using his gun, cocked, as an immediate show of force; discharging it into a group of people; shooting at something into which he did not have visibility; and never reassessing the situation until his magazine was empty.”
Proano, 43, is serving his sentence at a low-security facility in Loretto, Pennsylvania, according to the Bureau of Prisons. He is not due for release until May 2022.
Proano’s attorney, Dan Herbert, said in a statement: “My client is disappointed with the appeals court ruling as am I. In this climate, it is very difficult for police officers to get a fair shake or the benefit of the doubt from the legal system or the public especially when video is involved. The video does not tell the full story.
“Marco was forced to make a split second decision under very stressful conditions. He was trying to protect the public. Perhaps in hindsight, it was a misjudgment but it was not a crime. There are better ways to deal with this than a criminal prosecution. ”
A jury found Proano guilty in August 2017 of using unreasonable force. Though his trial preceded Officer Jason Van Dyke’s by a year, it still seemed to play out under the shadow of the Van Dyke prosecution.
That’s in part because the men share Herbert as a defense attorney. A jury found Van Dyke guilty of second-degree murder last year in the shooting death of Laquan McDonald. After that conviction, the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7 board voted to stop referring cases to Herbert.
The events that led to Proano’s conviction began when he and his partner were called to 95th and LaSalle on Dec. 22, 2013. They sought to back-up fellow officers who had already crossed paths with a stolen Toyota packed with at least six teens.
By the time Proano arrived, the driver of the car had fled. A BB gun later fell out of the car, and Proano watched as the car suddenly began to reverse with one teen hanging out of a window. Another teen had lunged forward from the back seat, thrown the car into reverse and pushed the gas pedal with his hands.
No one was in the car’s path.
What happened next was caught on a police dashcam video. Proano can be seen in the video stepping forward, holding his gun sideways. Seconds later, he steps backward as the car reverses into view. Proano then lifts his gun again with both hands, upright, and a flash can be seen as he appears to open fire.
Proano fired 16 times in nine seconds. One teen was wounded in his left hip and right heel. The other suffered a shoulder wound. Proano has said he pulled the trigger to protect the teen hanging out the window.
The appellate court said a jury could have found that last claim “flatly not believable.”