Surveillance video released Tuesday shows two Chicago police officers opening fire from their unmarked car last July, a shooting that has resulted in criminal charges against them both.
The video is among materials and records released by the Civilian Office of Police Accountability as it investigates the shooting that wounded two unarmed men in Pilsen on July 22.
The release comes four days after Sgt. Christopher Liakopoulos and Officer Ruben Reynoso were hit with felony charges, and just a day after a Cook County judge refused to block COPA from making the videos public.
The only video that captures the shooting shows the officers’ gray Ford Fusion reversing as a group of people linger on a sidewalk in the 1000 block of West 18th Street. Two from the group then walk into the street toward the car, and one of them, Miguel Medina, holds a hand up in the officers’ direction.
Medina is shot almost immediately and knocked to the ground. Reynoso and Liakopoulos then jump out of the car and begin firing toward someone out of frame — apparently a 17-year-old boy who prosecutors said ran off and started firing at the cops.
As Liakopoulos gives chase, Reynoso stays by the car while Medina lies on the street. Neither officer appears to administer aid.
One person appears to check on Medina, followed by a second who runs up as the two officers stand near him. The video ends shortly after three police SUVs and a firetruck arrive and a crowd gathers around Medina.
The video has no sound. But other videos that don’t capture the shooting include the sound of gunfire and the initial distress call broadcast over police radio.
“Hey, do you need medical?” one person is later heard saying as someone else cries out in the background. “Hey, do you need first aid?”
Medina, 23, was shot in the lower back and right leg, according to an incident report included in the release. An arrest report notes he was taken into custody for aggravated assault of an officer, but was eventually released because the evidence was insufficient.
Reached by phone last week, Medina said the officers “shot me for no reason. Once the video is released, it will show what happened.” Attorneys for Medina said they have filed a lawsuit in federal court alleging false arrest and excessive force.
Because the 17-year-old is a minor, COPA spokesman Ephraim Eaddy said the agency wasn’t making public video that shows him. The officers’ attorneys unsuccessfully sought to block COPA from releasing anything, arguing that the disclosure would show only “half” of the incident.
The video is central to the case against the officers and allegedly runs counter to the narrative initially put forth by police brass.
Chicago Police Supt. David Brown initially told reporters that a gunman “shot first.” But on Monday, he agreed with the state’s attorney’s office that video evidence disproved the early claim that “there was an initial exchange of gunfire.”
Liakopoulos, 43, and Reynoso, 42, both face up to 30 years in prison on charges of aggravated battery with a firearm, aggravated discharge of a firearm and official misconduct. They were released on bond Friday and have been stripped of their police powers.
At a news conference announcing the charges last Friday, State’s Attorney Kim Foxx said the video shows the officers lied when they claimed they shot back after first being fired upon.
In tactical response reports released Tuesday, both officers made that false claim. Both marked boxes showing that an “offender” fired the first shot. Liakopoulos also marked a box in his report indicating they were “ambushed [with] no warning.”
Assigned to the Major Accidents Unit, the officers were wearing plainclothes and were driving to a training course when they stopped to investigate a group of people that morning, Assistant State’s Attorney Alyssa Janicki said during their bail hearing. Neither was wearing a body-worn camera.
Medina and the teenager, a satchel across the front of his body, approached the officers, according to Janicki, who said Medina was holding a wine bottle and cellphone in one hand.
As Medina was standing at the passenger side of the squad car and showing his hands, Reynoso pointed a gun from the window, Janicki said. Liakopoulos also grabbed his gun, leaning across Reynoso as they both fired at Medina, leaving him seriously wounded.
The 17-year-old ran off, grabbed a gun from his bag and began firing at the officers, who returned fire, Janicki said.
A document released by COPA provides new details about an innocent bystander wounded during the exchange. The 36-year-old man said he was walking back from a gym with his friend on 18th Street when he saw three men on the other side of the street, one of them waving a bottle, before gunfire erupted.
As he and his friend ran away, he was shot in his leg and collapsed, the report states. Someone driving past offered to drive him to someone’s house. From there, his friend drove him and his wife to Rush University Medical Center.
When police sought to charge the teenager with attempted murder, Liakopoulos and Reynoso both claimed he shot first, Janicki said. But in a subsequent interview with the state’s attorney’s office, the officers said they didn’t know who fired first but claimed the young man pointed a gun at them before they shot at Medina.
Reynoso’s attorney, Brian Sexton, contended that during the exchange of gunfire, Reynoso was focused on the 17-year-old with the gun and never shot in the direction of Medina.
As for his client’s conflicting statements, Sexton argued that he misremembered the “traumatic, stressful event.” Once Reynoso was able to watch the video, Sexton said, he told COPA and the state’s attorney’s office he “just didn’t remember” the shooting.
Sexton said prosecutors had “dropped” charges against the boy, but Foxx said Friday the case was still under investigation.
Liakopoulos’ attorney, Tim Grace, asked the court to focus on whether the officers’ actions were “objectively reasonable.” Grace noted they were on-duty when they were “confronted by an armed assailant who points a gun at them and eventually fires at them.”
“We don’t use 20/20 hindsight, we don’t second-guess, we don’t slow down video like the state’s attorney’s office does,” Grace said.
He said he expected COPA to release only “half the video,” indicating the agency wouldn’t make public surveillance footage showing the 17-year-old firing a gun. He asked Judge Maryam Ahmad to stop the release, but she referred the request to a hearing before Judge Mary Marubio on Monday.
There, the attorneys warned the incomplete video could bias prospective jurors. While the video would show the officers opening fire, Sexton said, it wouldn’t show the teen “dropping into a two-point stance and firing at two police officers.”
Marubio, however, declined to keep the video under wraps.