By Michael Harriot, The Root
The Chicago Police Board has dismissed two officers who riddled a car with bullets during a 2016 car chase that ended in the tragic death of Paul O’Neal. However, the officer who actually fired the shots that killed the unarmed Black teenager was promptly…hold up. I’m sure they fired him, too. Let me check.
Anyway, while my assistant is looking for that information, I’ll fill you in on the Chicago Police Board’s 8-0 vote to fire Michael Coughlin Jr. and his partner, Jose Torres, for violating the Chicago Police Department rules when they opened fire on a stolen Jaguar driven by 18-year-old O’Neal in July 2016. The board made the decision after they reviewed footage of the incident, took witness statements and read the police department’s rules, which “generally prohibit officers from shooting at a moving car if the vehicle is the only weapon being used against them,” reports the Chicago Tribune.
On July 28, 2016, officers tried to stop O’Neal and a passenger as they saw him driving a car that had been reported stolen. O’Neal managed to elude the police (probably because he was in a Jag and they were in SUVs), hitting two police cars during the ensuing chase. As O’Neal sped away from the officers, Coughlin began shooting, according to body camera recordings. Torres fired a shot as the stolen car flew down the block before it crashed into another car occupied by Diaz.
Diaz eventually killed O’Neal with one gunshot to the back, CBS Local reports. Yet, ironically, they don’t name him as one of the officers who was fired on Thursday. I’m sure it’s there (my assistant is very incompetent). While I search for Diaz’s fate, you should read the Tribune’s description of the incident:
O’Neal ran from the Jaguar as Diaz chased him through the backyards of several homes in the 7300 block of South Merrill. Diaz fired five times at O’Neal, apparently taking the last shot while aiming his pistol over a backyard fence that O’Neal had scaled, according to city records.
O’Neal died after he was hit once in the middle of the back and collapsed near a back porch. As three officers stood over O’Neal, who was lying facedown on the ground, Diaz was captured on a body camera video kicking him, records show.
Asked by IPRA why he kicked the teen, Diaz answered, “Anger, rage, frustration,” according to the agency. IPRA recommended a six-month suspension for Diaz, concluding he “genuinely believed” O’Neal had a gun but citing him for kicking the teen and yelling profanities at him.
Damn, I still can’t find it!
Yet, I did find that in a prior report, Diaz claimed that O’Neal was “reaching into his waistband,” causing Diaz to “genuinely believe” all those gunshots fired by Coughlin and Torres were coming from O’Neal. I also saw that the Independent Police Review Authority cleared Diaz in 2018, but that board is now defunct, and prosecutors didn’t even bother to file criminal charges. But they had to fire him too, right? If firing into a moving car violates police rules, then firing at an actual person should be a fireable offense, right?
OK, let me read the actual police board report.
“Officer Coughlin’s reactive decision to shoot—and keep shooting—created a chaotic situation in which any person present could have been killed,” said the 27-page decision. “And while there was a brief period in which the stolen vehicle veered toward Officer Torres, the shots fired by Officer Coughlin started before —and continued after—that occurrence.”
OK, nothing there. Let’s check the actual video.
Yeah, he should have definitely been fired! He had to have been fired! They probably just forgot to mention it. I’m sure they were probably preoccupied with this coronavirus stuff. Don’t worry, I’ll let them know that they should announce his firing because I almost…
It turns out that according to the Citizens Police Data Project, Officer Jose Diaz, who has 21 civilian complaints filed against him (more than 81 percent of other officers) and four use-of-force complaints (more than 63 percent of other officers) is still employed by the CPD’s gang unit. Anyway, at least the two officers who shot up that stolen car were fired.
Apparently, in Chicago, a Jaguar is worth more than a Black life.
This article originally appeared in The Root.