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Unarmed man shot by Amtrak police now paralyzed, family says

Chad Robertson, 25, and his family. | Provided photo

A Minnesota man who was shot by an Amtrak police officer on Wednesday is paralyzed and clinging to life at Stroger Hospital, his sister said Friday.

Chad Robertson has a bullet lodged near his spine after he was shot Wednesday while running from Amtrak officers about a block south of Union Station, said his sister, Nina Robertson.

Nina Robertson and her family’s lawyer both say Chad Robertson, a 25-year-old father of two, was unarmed. Authorities have not recovered a weapon from the scene.

Chad Robertson has been in and out of consciousness and is unable to move or feel anything below his shoulders, his sister said.

“He opened his eyes at the hospital, and the first thing he said to me was ‘Why did they shoot me? I didn’t do anything,’” said his sister, who rushed to Chicago with several family members Thursday. “When he found out about his condition from the doctors, he was heartbroken. He just said ‘the police ruined my life.’”

“Chad is a wonderful father,” Arterria Lipsey, Robertson’s fiancée, said at a news conference later in the day with Black Lives Matter activists. “He never did anything to nobody. He was just trying to come home.”

A law enforcement source has said the Amtrak officer opened fire while responding to a robbery — something Robertson’s sister and the family lawyer dispute. Police said money and narcotics were recovered at the scene.

Robertson had no criminal record and was unarmed, though he was carrying “an insignificant amount” of marijuana, said Douglas Hopson, the attorney representing Robertson and his family. Prosecutors have said the shooting was captured on surveillance video, Hopson said, though he had not yet seen the images.

Amtrak has said that an investigation into the shooting is being led by Chicago Police. The officers involved are currently on “administrative assignment” per Amtrak police policy, railway spokesman Marc Magliari said Friday.

Robertson, a construction worker, and a friend were returning from a wedding in Memphis aboard a Megabus — a trip that included an hour layover to change buses in Chicago, his sister said.

When they arrived in Chicago, the bus driver told Robertson and his friend they would not be able to go inside the Greyhound terminal to wait for their next bus, and suggested they go to Union Station to stay warm, Hopson said.

The woman and Robertson’s friend both have been interviewed by the Cook County state’s attorney’s office, Hopson said, and were set to appear before a grand jury on Friday. A spokeswoman for the states attorney’s office did not immediately respond to questions.

“They went inside, they thought they’d be welcome, and two officers approached them and one of (the officers) was very aggressive and disrespectful,” Hopson said. “They exchanged words that I’m told were not pleasant, and they left.”

As the trio walked away from the station, they realized they had left their bags behind. Robertson and the woman walked on to look for someplace to wait out the layover, while Robertson’s friend went back for their luggage. As he left the station with the bags, the same two officers followed him, stopping the three travelers on the street near a restaurant, Hopson said.

“(The officer) told them ‘don’t go anywhere, put your hands up,’” Hopson said. The officer began searching the three, and when he reached his hands into Robertson’s pockets, Robertson ran.

“(The officer) yelled ‘If you don’t stop running, I’m going to shoot you,’ and Chad kept running,” Hopson said. The officer dropped down to his knee to take aim, then fired a shot and missed, Hopson said. The officer shouted another warning, then fired again as Robertson ran.

“They watched Chad go down,” Hopson said.

The bullet lodged in Robertson’s spine, and doctors are unable to remove it, Hopson said.

Nina Robertson, left; Robertson family lawyer Douglas Hopson, middle; and Candice Hackett, right, sister of Chad Robertson, at John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital of Cook County. | Andrea Salcedo/Sun-Times

Nina Robertson, left; Robertson family lawyer Douglas Hopson, middle; and Candice Hackett, right, sister of Chad Robertson, discuss Chad Robertson’s shooting outside John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital of Cook County on Friday. | Andrea Salcedo/Sun-Times