Surveillance video shows an off-duty Chicago police officer shooting and wounding an unarmed autistic black man, contradicting an initial police description of an armed confrontation and echoing the devastating dash-cam video evidence against a white Chicago officer who claimed a black teen tried to stab him before he fatally shot the youth.
The grainy video from a security camera on a South Side home released Tuesday by the Civilian Office of Police Accountability shows Sgt. Khalil Muhammad shooting 18-year-old Ricardo Hayes around 5 a.m. on Aug. 13, 2017.
Before the shooting, Hayes can be seen running along the sidewalk, then stopping. Muhammad pulls up alongside, with parked cars between them. Hayes takes a few steps toward him and Muhammad shoots the young man in the arm and chest. Hayes turns and runs, despite his wounds.
A lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and another on behalf of Hayes and his family say his caretaker had called police to say Hayes had wandered away from home and that he has developmental disabilities.
“As a black teenager with disabilities, Ricky was at a heightened risk for police violence,” Karen Sheley of the ACLU of Illinois said in a statement. “Thankfully, he survived — but he should never have been shot.”
At the time, police officials described the incident as an armed confrontation, mirroring statements by officers after the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald in November 2014. That case became a flashpoint in a city that has struggled with a deep racial divide between police and black residents. The officer in that case, Jason Van Dyke, was convicted earlier this month of second-degree murder and aggravated battery.
The sergeant’s call to 911 after he shot Hayes in the summer of 2017 was among the audio files released this week.
“The guy, like, he was about to pull a gun. Walked up to the car, and I had to shoot,” Muhammad told a Chicago Fire Department dispatcher. But according to the lawsuit filed by Hayes and his family, the teen “was standing almost perfectly still, facing Officer Muhammad’s truck, with his hands at his sides” when he was shot.
Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson later said Hayes had no weapon and, on Wednesday, department spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said Johnson will be asking Muhammad why he opened fire from inside his SUV — something officers are trained to do only if there is an imminent threat.
The Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office has decided not to prosecute the sergeant and the state attorney general office has not said whether it will investigate the case.