No Charges Will Be Filed Against Chicago Police Officers Who Shot Unarmed Paul O’Neal In the Back
On July 28, 2016, Chicago police officers tried to pull over a Jaguar that had been reported stolen. Body cam video released by the now defunct Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA) shows that the Jaguar took off. Officers fired at the moving vehicle, which subsequently crashed. Paul O’Neal left the vehicle running. Officers chased behind him, with officer Jose Diaz shooting Paul in the back, killing him.
Police Supt. Eddie Johnson took the three officers off the street.
“After a thorough review of the evidence, including dashboard and body camera recordings, witness interviews, and physical evidence, the Office of the Cook County State’s Attorney determined that criminal charges against the officers are not appropriate in this case,” the state’s attorney’s office said in a statement on Friday.
“You f—-ing shoot at us?” one officer asks the prone O’Neal as he is handcuffed in the video released by IPRA. Another officer, searching the teen’s backpack, asks: “Have you got anything on you?”
The state’s attorney’s office said that two of the officers “were places in reasonable fear of death or great bodily harm” when O’Neal drove toward them. The third officer who shot “reasonably believed that O’Neal had fired at the police, although in fact those shots were fired by fellow officers.”
What is clear is that Paul O’Neal was killed in a retaliatory act and not because any officer was in fear of their life.
Michael Oppenheimer, the attorney for O’Neal’s mother, said he believes Diaz “is absolutely lying about how and why he shot Paul O’Neal.”
“Being in a stolen car is not a good thing,” Oppenheimer said. “But it’s a property crime, not a death sentence.”
Investigators from IPRA found that officers Michael Coughlin Jr. and Jose Torres should be fired for endangering the lives of civilians and fellow officers when they shot at the moving car on a residential street. They ruled that Diaz was justified because he thought the 18-year-old had a gun and fired at police. But they recommended a six-month suspension because Diaz didn’t activate his bodycam, and he allegedly kicked O’Neal after the shooting.
A pending federal lawsuit filed by O’Neal’s mother, Tanisha Gibson, claims that after Diaz shot O’Neal, he kicked him “without lawful justification or excuse” as he was laying on the ground, bleeding.
The suit, which claims the officers violated CPD guidelines by firing into a moving vehicle, states that Coughlin shot at the Jaguar nine times, striking the officers’ vehicle twice in the process. Torres fired once.
Asked if the decision by the state’s attorney’s office will have any impact on the lawsuit, Oppenheimer said: “The federal case is proceeding along. I think [Diaz] is lying and that they’re all in trouble.”
An officer can be heard on video saying: “I shot at the car after he almost hit you. He almost hit my partner, so I f—ing shot at him.”