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COPA chief questions cops’ account after they killed Dexter Reed

Body worn camera screen shot showing the moments before Dexter Reed was shot by Chicago Police who fired upon him 96 times in 41 seconds.

Disturbing videos of Chicago police officers killing 26-year-old Dexter Reed after firing 96 shots at him sparked protests and ripped open new wounds in the Black community. Leaders are calling for an investigation as the head of the city’s police watchdog agency questions whether officers lied in their account of the fatal shooting on the West Side.

The shooting happened on March 21 after five officers from Chicago’s tactical unit pulled Reed over for a traffic stop at 3836 W. Ferdinand St. in Humboldt Park. The Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA) said the officers in the unmarked cruiser claimed Reed wasn’t wearing a seatbelt.

Dexter Reed

In the video, Reed rolls down the window of his white SUV, then rolls it back up when talking to a female officer. She tells him “Do not roll the window up.” She then tried to open the car door with Reed still in the vehicle. When she couldn’t, the officer says repeatedly “unlock the door” while a male officer with his gun pointing at Reed says, “open the f—— door.”

When Reed did not comply with the commands, the female officer shouted, “open the door now.” When Reed did not obey, numerous shots are heard. When it was over, the officers fired 96 shots at him in 41 seconds. COPA said at least 50 of those shots came from a 23-year-old officer.

The videos show that one officer continued to shoot as Reed’s body lay motionless near his bullet-riddled vehicle. The videos show that police stopped shooting before they searched Reed’s lifeless body to retrieve the gun that COPA said he had used to shoot one officer in the forearm.

But the officers’ account of the fatal shooting has come under scrutiny from COPA’s top brass and residents who viewed the bodycam video. They questioned how the officers could tell whether Reed was wearing a seatbelt when his car windows were tinted, and the officers were a certain distance.

Before the gruesome videos were released last week, COPA Chief Administrator Andrea Kersten sent a letter on April 1 to Police Superintendent Larry Snelling. Kersten questioned whether officers lied when they were asked why they pulled Reed over during a traffic stop.

Although COPA had initially reported that Reed was stopped because of a seat belt violation, Kersten’s letter says, “the available evidence calls into question the veracity of this account.”

She writes, “Specifically, COPA is uncertain how the officers could have seen this seat belt violation, given their location relative to [Reed’s] vehicle and the dark tints on [Reed’s] windows. This evidence raises serious concerns about the validity of the traffic stop that led to the officers’ encounter with [Reed].”

Kersten was also concerned by the numerous gunshots officers fired at Reed. She said there were “serious questions about the proportionality of their use of deadly force.”

In the letter, Kersten stressed that all four officers continued to fire at Reed “after he exited his vehicle and was unarmed.” She pointed out the officer who pumped three bullets into Reed’s body as he remained unconscious on the ground.

The 96 gunshots fired at Reed gave Kersten “grave concerns about the officers’ ability to assess what is a necessary, reasonable, and proportional use of deadly force.”

Callers to WVON 1690’s Perri Small show raised the same concerns. Some questioned whether the bullet that Reed allegedly fired from his car and hit another officer came from a fellow officer. In the video, the injured officer who was shot in the forearm, is seen running from Reed’s vehicle.

One caller, Paul, said “If you look at the officer who got shot, you’ll see he was on the passenger side of car. But the window on the passenger side is not broke.”

Anthony, another caller, said, “[From the] angle I was looking at in the video, the window was halfway rolled down. I didn’t see the extension of the arm or anything.”

Other callers said they believed Reed shot the officer and caused his own death.

“People don’t understand, he shot at a police officer,” said Al, another caller. “That’s why he was killed. If he can shoot a police officer, what do you think he would do to us on the street.”

Will, who said he is a retired Chicago police officer who served 12 years on the force, said, “tactical officers are like sharks. They drive in crime areas looking for any type of infraction to stop someone. His windows were tinted but not that dark.

When the officer got shot, he was leaning into the passenger windows. I saw the smoke coming out of the car.

“Was it excessive? Yes. Someone has to say he’s down, he’s down and then you stop shooting.”

Will also said, “The system failed this young man.”

Will was referring to news reports that say Reed was arrested after he walked out of Saks Fifth Avenue on the Mag Mile without paying for a $950 shirt. He was released on a misdemeanor.

“Had he been kept in custody he wouldn’t have been in this situation.

But despite Reed’s background, some say 96 shots fired at him was not justified and he didn’t deserve to die that way.

Hours after numerous bodycam videos were released on Tuesday, April 9, protests erupted at the 11th Area Police Station where Nicole Banks, Reed’s mother, collapsed after making an emotional plea.

“My insides are burning up,” Banks said, outside COPA’s offices. “They didn’t have to do him like that.”

Before the video was released, Reverend Ira Acree, Reverend Janette Wilson and other community leaders of the Leaders Network of Chicago called for an investigation into the shooting.

“People still have these ugly images of the 16 shots and a cover-up that was associated with Laquan McDonald,” Acree said, referring to the 17-year-old who was killed by convicted murderer Officer Jason Van Dyke, who served just over three years in prison after being found guilty in 2018.

“I believe to build trust with police, you have to have an independent investigation that’s a little removed from these people who are friends, who know each other,” Acree said.

After the videos were released on Tuesday, Mayor Brandon Johnson and Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx held a joint press conference.

“I know this footage is extremely painful and traumatic for many of our city’s residents,” Johnson said. “It would be especially difficult for those of us living in communities where the events depicted occur all too often. As mayor and as a father raising a family, including two Black boys on the West Side of Chicago, I’m personally devastated to see yet another young Black man lose his life during an interaction with the police.”

Johnson also said, “As a city, I want our efforts to be focused on accountability and transparency. That is why today I am joined by leadership from the Civilian Office of Police Accountability and the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office.

“All of us up here are making a firm commitment to collaboration, to cooperation, and to provide transparency for the people of Chicago so that we can ensure that accountability is upheld, and justice is achieved. Officers involved in the events of March 21 are on a 30-day administrative leave.

“And once COPA alerted my administration to the video, it was important to us that Dexter Reed’s family see it as soon as possible, and once they had viewed it, that it was promptly released to the public. Because the people of Chicago deserve to have awareness and full knowledge of police shootings.”

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