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Ex-FBI agent says IPRA considered clearing cop later charged by feds

This still image is taken from police video of the December 2013 shooting for which Officer Marco Proano now faces a federal trial on charges he violated the civil rights of two teenagers he wounded. | Independent Police Review Authority

The agency charged with investigating police shootings in Chicago was leaning in 2015 toward clearing a cop who would ultimately face criminal charges for wounding two teenagers, a former FBI agent testified Tuesday.

But upon learning of that possibility, then-FBI Special Agent Larissa Camacho said she spoke to the head of the Independent Police Review Authority at the time, Scott Ando, who agreed that Officer Marco Proano’s decision to fire at the teens on Dec. 22, 2013, required further investigation.

It’s not clear how much sway Camacho’s intervention had over the IPRA investigation. But IPRA recommended Proano’s firing in August 2016 under the new IPRA chief, Sharon Fairley. A federal grand jury indicted Proano the next month for civil rights violations. And in U.S. District Judge Gary Feinerman’s courtroom Tuesday, Camacho did not mince words with Proano’s defense attorney, Daniel Herbert.

Chicago Police Officer Marco Proano leaves the Dirksen Federal Building after a hearing in U.S. District Court last year. | Frank Main/Sun-Times

“I thought your client was completely in the wrong for this shooting,” Camacho told Herbert from the witness stand. “Your client shot into a car full of teenagers.”

The wounded teens settled a lawsuit against the city for $360,000.

Camacho testified during an hours-long hearing aimed at determining whether legally protected statements by Proano played an improper role in his prosecution. Prosecutors twice asked Feinerman to close the courtroom to the public and the media in an effort to keep such statements out of the press. Feinerman declined to do so until mid-afternoon, forcing the attorneys to steer clear of such testimony.

The judge is expected to rule on the matter Wednesday.

Camacho, who is now retired from the FBI, testified that she met with IPRA investigator Dennis Prieto early in March 2015. During that meeting, she said Prieto told her he was leaning toward a finding that Proano did nothing wrong. She said she then went to speak to Ando and walked him through dashcam footage of the incident. She said he agreed the case required further investigation.

Prieto took the stand after Camacho. However, he said he didn’t recall much of the March 2015 meeting, and he pointed out that he eventually found Proano “culpable.”

Later, FBI Special Agent Eugene Jackson testified that he witnessed “small talk” between Camacho and Ando, during which Ando agreed to let the FBI handle the Proano case.

Ando could not be reached for comment Tuesday afternoon.

On Dec. 22, 2013, a police vehicle’s dashboard camera captured Proano firing his handgun into a car full of teenagers who were pulled over for speeding at LaSalle and 95th on the South Side.

At the time of the shooting, the police department said in a statement that officers curbed a stolen car packed with joyriders. Herbert has said one of the teens jumped from the back seat of the car and was operating the gas and brake pedals with his hands while another teen was dangling out of the car.

Herbert has said Proano was justified in using deadly force to stop the reckless driver who was jeopardizing the passenger hanging from the vehicle.

Proano’s case is set to go to trial later this month.

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