Crusader staff report
Same number of bullets. Same lawyer. Same police department. Another dash cam video. While the Laquan McDonald case struggles to begin proceedings in criminal court, another case that shares some similarities has ended in a federal courtroom with a guilty verdict.
A federal jury on Monday, August 28 convicted Chicago Police Officer Marco Proano on two counts of civil rights violation for firing 16 shots into a car filled with teenagers on the South Side in December 2013. It was a trial that shared some similarities with the Laquan McDonald case, where Officer Jason Van Dyke shot the teenager 16 times in October 2014.
In addition to the number of bullets fired, both cases involve Chicago police officers who are represented by Attorney Daniel Herbert. But while the Laquan McDonald case has been in the national spotlight since the city was forced to release the dashcam video of the brutal murder, the other case happened nearly four years ago, and received much less publicity. On Monday, it came to an end with a verdict that may be viewed as a warning to Herbert and his other client.
After over a week of testimony, cross-examinations and deliberations, jurors at the Dirksen Federal Courthouse returned, and delivered a verdict that sealed the fate of Proano. Now, Proano awaits his November 20 sentencing, where he could get 20 years in prison for wounding two teens, who along with four others, packed a Toyota Avalon at 95th and LaSalle when the shooting occurred on December 22, 2013.
The verdict was a stunning defeat for Proano and his attorney, who argued vehemently that his client acted reasonably.
But the jury agreed with prosecutors, who said Proano committed “a gross abuse of the power he’s been given,” by leaping out of his squad car “like a cowboy” with his gun held sideways before unleashing a hail of 16 bullets at the vehicle full of teenagers. After the verdict was read, Herbert and his client were reportedly left speechless and stoic. Herbert reportedly left the courthouse without talking to the news media.
Proano, 42, was indicted by a federal grand jury less than a year ago. He was suspended without pay from the Chicago Police Department and the Independent Police Review Authority has recommended his firing, while the city settled with the wounded teens for $360,000. One teen was injured in his left hip and right heel. The other teen suffered a wound to the shoulder.
Herbert said Proano’s sense of duty drew him to 95th and LaSalle on December 22, 2013. There, two fellow officers had already crossed paths with a stolen Toyota packed with teenagers.
The driver of the Toyota had fled by the time Proano arrived on the scene. Proano watched the car as it suddenly began to reverse with one teen hanging out of a window. Prosecutors said another teen had lunged forward from the backseat, thrown the car into reverse and pushed the gas pedal with his hands. A BB gun later fell out of the car.
Federal prosecutors played a police dashcam video that recorded the next steps that led to Proano shooting at the car 16 times. Prosecutors argued that every bullet Proano fired was unreasonable, but Proano said he opened fire to protect the teen hanging out the window. But one prosecutor told jurors “you don’t shoot at someone to save their life.”
The events that led to the shooting, and the shooting itself, may force Herbert to tweak his client’s defense in the Laquan McDonald case, which is still in its pre-trial phase. In that case, Van Dyke is charged with first degree murder and is accused of using unnecessary force in fatally shooting McDonald 16 times in October 2014. A dash cam video contradicted Van Dyke and other officers’ claims that the teenager was walking towards them with a knife, when he was not.
On Tuesday, August 29, Special Prosecutor Patricia Holmes said more indictments are possible in the police cover up case of the McDonald shooting. Holmes said the Cook County grand jury is still looking at “several individuals” as it weighs further indictments.