Report clears officer who killed teenager

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Paul O’Neal

Crusader Staff Report

A disciplinary report cleared one officer who shot dead 18-year-old Paul O’Neal in 2016, but the same report recommends that two Chicago police officers be fired for shooting at a moving vehicle during a chase that led up to the fatal shooting.

The report from the defunct Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA), said Jose Diaz was justified in killing O’Neal because he reasonably believed that O’Neal had a gun and had fired at police. The ruling also said Diaz violated department policy by kicking O’Neal and yelling profanities at the teenager as he lay dying from the gunshot wound.

However, the IPRA report said the shooting by Officers Michael Coughlin Jr. and Michael Torres was unjustified and the two endangered the public and lives of fellow officers when they shot at teens fleeing police in a stolen Jaguar in South Shore on July 28, 2016.

O’Neal’s mother filed a wrongful death lawsuit in federal court against the officers and the city.

The 62-page report, which was obtained by the Chicago Tribune, was released last September before IPRA was replaced by the Civilian Office of Police Accountability.

Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson agreed with the report, but both officers still remain on the force and on the payroll. The Chicago Police Board, which has the final say in termination recommendations, is reviewing the case.

O’Neal was shot dead at 7:30 p.m. on July 28, 2016 after hitting two police vehicles with a stolen Jaguar. Body cam footage showed Coughlin fired nine shots at the car as it traveled away from him. O’Neal eventually abandoned the Jaguar and fled on foot before Officer Jose Diaz ran after him and fired five shots in the 7400 block of  South Merrill Avenue. Diaz fatally shot O’Neal after the teenager climbed over a backyard fence. O’Neal was struck in the back and collapsed on the back porch.

Diaz was later captured on body cam video kicking O’Neal’s body while yelling profanities. Diaz was also recorded as saying he thought O’Neal fired shots at him. No weapon was found on O’Neal or at the scene and Diaz was recorded on body cam video saying, “Man, this is so f—- up. I don’t want nothing to happen to that f——— guy, dude. The way s——’s going man, I’m going to be f———crucified bro.”

IPRA said Diaz violated department policy by kicking O’Neal and failing to turn on his body camera during the chase.

“Officer Diaz faced an extremely tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving situation,”the report said. “Officer Diaz perceived that the shots were fired from the Jaguar or at least from (the) direction of the Jaguar.”

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