Chicago Cop Cleared in Shooting of Unarmed Man, His Third Shooting in Six Months, City Already Settled With Family for $4 Million

shot by copfamily photoEarlier this year, the city of Chicago settled with the family of Flint Farmer, who was shot by Officer Gildardo Sierra in June 2011, for $4.1 million but made no admission of guilt. Sierra fired 16 rounds, hitting the unarmed Farmer seven times. It was Sierra’s third shooting, and second fatal shooting, in six months. The officer admitted to having been drinking before coming into work. A dashboard cam caught video of a part of the shooting, which appeared to show Sierra shooting Farmer in the back as Farmer lay on the ground. At the time the city’s police superintendent, Garry McCarthy, said the shooting was a “big problem” and that the department shouldn’t have sent Sierra back on the streets after the first two shootings.

Nevertheless, prosecutors cleared Sierra in the Farmer shooting, accepting the officer’s claim that he feared for his life and insisting the situation was more complicated than the video suggested. Via the Chicago Tribune:

The prosecutors said although the videotape of the shooting was damning, showing muzzle flashes and suggesting Sierra stood over Farmer as he shot him in the back, the continued investigation yielded forensic and other evidence that led the prosecutors to conclude that the incident was more complex.

"The video is actually somewhat maddening," [Assistant State’s Attorney] Trutenko said. "It's why we run out every ground ball."

Proscutors said the fact Sierra admitted to drinking “multiple” beers before coming to work, after lying about it, wasn’t crucial; police didn’t test Sierra for alcohol until at least 5 hours later, and say he got a zero. Sierra says he mistook a burgundy cellphone he says Farmer, who fled from police after a domestic disturbance call, pointed at him. Prosecutors s ay they found evidence to back Sierra’s story. Via the Tribune again:

Prosecutors pointed to several key pieces of evidence in deciding against charging the officer. One was a wound to Farmer's right hand that suggested he was pointing his arm at Sierra when he was shot. Prosecutors believe that was one of the first shots, if not the first, to hit him. In addition, DNA tests showed that blood on Farmer's phone was his, suggesting he was holding the phone when shot. The other shots followed, with the last three hitting Farmer in the back.

Prosecutors said their investigation showed that all 16 shots — all that Sierra's Sig Sauer semi-automatic handgun could hold — were fired within 4.2 seconds as Sierra moved laterally from the street to the sidewalk, the gun ejecting the spent shells as he moved. That allowed prosecutors to chart a probable sequence of events and also to understand that Sierra was reacting rapidly under dark and difficult conditions.

Sierra told investigators he feared for his life because he believed Farmer had a gun. Under state law, police officers can continue firing at a suspect until they believe the threat has ended.

Illinois has some of the strictest gun control laws in the country, yet its rules of engagement for police aren’t. It’s a tacit admission that its gun control laws don’t work, allowing cops to keep shooting based merely on their belief of a threat.

Coupled with the job security provided by generous public union contracts (Sierra will likely remain on the job, if not in the streets), the permissiveness toward police shootings can breed a highly aggressive attitude among police officers, as witnessed with Sierra.  The city of Chicago set aside a whopping $27 million in taxpayer money to settle police brutality claims in 2013, and blew through that money by March. At the same time, the police union was demanding a 12 percent pay raise and bonuses for having to live in the city of Chicago, while the police department said it couldn’t afford to respond to every 911 call.

The justice system, then, defers to police officers in cases of deadly force, while the police union restricts the department from taking the kind of severe disciplinary measures that might increase the perceived cost to the police officer of doing something like firing 16 rounds in 4 seconds. As it stands, the costs are shouldered by the victims, and in the case of settlements, by the taxpayers too.

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  • WTF||

    The prosecutors said although the videotape of the shooting was damning, showing muzzle flashes and suggesting Sierra stood over Farmer as he shot him in the back, the continued investigation yielded forensic and other evidence that led the prosecutors to conclude that the incident was more complex.

    "What are you gonna believe, us or your lying eyes?"

  • ||

    It was Sierra’s third shooting, and second fatal shooting, in six months. The officer admitted to having been drinking before coming into work. A dashboard cam caught video of a part of the shooting, which appeared to show Sierra shooting Farmer in the back as Farmer lay on the ground.

    So he comes into work drunk, shoots a man in the back, and it's the third time he's shot someone in less than half a year? If it wouldn't be such a waste of a damn fine patrolman they'd promote this guy to captain!

  • Jquip||

    Hey man, he got almost half the rounds on a stationary target. That's top flight police marksmanship. Imagine the death toll if they canned him and had all the average drunk officers firing at people.

  • KDN||

    He gets results!

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Nevertheless, prosecutors cleared Sierra in the Farmer shooting, accepting the officer’s claim that he feared for his life and insisting the situation was more complicated than the video suggested.

    They would give anyone that same benefit of the doubt.

  • sarcasmic||

    In the story I posted about this on the Morning Links earlier this week, it said that it was the shots to the back while face down on the ground that killed him. But if the officer says that someone face down on the ground after being shot is a threat to his life, then who am I or anyone else to question it. I mean, obviously someone face down on the ground could be a deadly threat. Right? Right?

  • Restoras||

    Officer safety.

    Commence the printing of 1911s.
    http://www.theatlantic.com/tec.....ks/281266/

  • ||

    "It reads like a plot of a dystopian novel: People develop a technology that allows them to manufacture—themselves, in the privacy of their own homes—working guns. Law enforcement is unable to regulate firearms. Chaos ensues. "

    That is some fine panty-wetting there Megan.

  • jester||

    I didn't think people like Sierra needed a stinking badge. He is the law. Why is this being discussed?

  • UnCivilServant||

    It must be friday, Reason posted a story about cops shooting someone/something defenseless.

  • UnCivilServant||

    This can make people jaded.

  • Restoras||

    So, every day is Friday?

  • ||

    Or Monday. Or Tuesday. Or Wednesday. Or...

    sigh

  • The Late P Brooks||

    "The video is actually somewhat maddening," [Assistant State’s Attorney] Trutenko said.

    Fortunately, with a lot of hard work and a meticulous sifting of the totality of circumstances, we were able to discard the visual evidence and convince ourselves no crime had been committed.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    "I feared for my life! How was I to know that little girl was just trying to sell me cookies? I thought she was a hit man."

  • WTF||

    I just had a flashback to Louie Depalma screaming in terror as Alex Riger opens the door to his apartment to find a Girl Scout selling cookies in the Taxi Reverend Jim's premonition episode.

  • ||

    + 1 catcher's mask.

  • Dave Krueger||

    This problem will eventually solve itself as soon as people, when confronted by a cop, stop immediately grabbing their cellphone and pointing it at the cop in an intimidating manner leaving the cop no other option than to shoot. I might also add that cops will stop killing dogs as soon as people learn to stop having them as pets. If you have a dog, you're basically daring a cop to shoot it. How dumb can you be?

  • Restoras||

    Presumption of innocence, how does it work?

  • Dave Krueger||

    That rule has been abandoned in favor of the new rule which says, if they shoot you and you bleed, you're guilty.

  • fish_remote||

    That rule has been abandoned in favor of the new rule which says, if they shoot you and you bleed, you're guilty.

    I thought that meant she was a witch? Wait....what...?

  • Almanian!||

    It didn't get better....

  • sloopyinca||

    Presumption of evidence exists in a courtroom only...which is where this case belongs.

    I will continue to insist that we need grand juries and anonymous prosecutors so these cases can actually be brought to trial. Either that or we need to start discounting rope and erecting more lampposts in major cities.

  • ||

    When I got my Galaxy S3 I wanted the dark blue version, but they were out so I had to get the white one instead. Maybe that wasn't a bad thing after all...

  • creech||

    Why aren't the usual suspects getting up a million man march in Chicago to fire/imprison this scumbag?

  • sarcasmic||

    They don't want to end up shot by the cops.

  • RightNut||

    In a way these type of stories are worse than the guy in NM getting anally tortured. At least he has the opportunity to tell his story and sue, people like Flint Farmer don't have that luxury, and his murder will still be on the streets.

  • RightNut||

    Sierra told investigators he feared for his life because he believed Farmer had a gun. Under state law, police officers can continue firing at a suspect until they believe the threat has ended.

    I see this scumbag cop used his 'get out of murder' card. Good thing every cop seems to have one.

  • Swiss Servator, I got nothing.||

    "one"?

  • RightNut||

    It's infinitely reusable.

  • WTF||

    It's like a credit card with no limit, and the taxpayers have to pick up the tab.

  • Spoonman.||

    Illinois has some of the strictest gun control laws in the country, yet its rules of engagement for police aren’t. It’s a tacit admission that its gun control laws don’t work, allowing cops to keep shooting based merely on their belief of a threat.

    I like this quote.

  • fish_remote||

    So what you're saying is that the legendary "license to kill" supposedly held by James Bond was a restricted drive only to and from school during daylight hours when school is in session license compared to the minimum four kills a year quota driven license held by members of the Chicago P.D.

  • sloopyinca||

    Fuck.

  • nipplemancer||

    I would not shed a tear if someone carried out vigilante justice on this pig.

  • Leigh||

    You mean the prosecutor, right?

  • mr simple||

    Prosecutors pointed to several key pieces of evidence in deciding against charging the officer.

    One, he is a cop and we don't fight against our own.

  • WTF||

    Hey, I'm sure they wouldn't have charged a 'civilian' under similar circumstances, either.

  • Brett L||

    So I discovered yesterday that FL guarantees damage liabilities for municipalities above $200,000 and any additional civil costs are paid by the state. In the 2014 legislative session, the cost will be $57M plus the 4 outstanding awards including the FAMU drum major being beaten to death by his bandmates. You can go here and sort by Bill Type for claims. Some of the shit my taxes pay for include rape and forcible impregnation in a group home, wrongful death by cops, etc.

  • Almanian!||

    So, about what I'd suspect from "the usual suspects" at "Reason". Man, for a magazine called "Reason", you guys sure hate cops.

    Yeah, Officer Friendly is out there in the WAR ZONE - and it is a WAR ZONE - every day, to protect citizens from terrorists and all the other threats. And what do the POS civilians do? Rag on a cop who had to defend himself THREE times already, just this year.

    Listen, he has a right to go home to his family - that's why they have these laws to make sure vigilantes like you POS "citizens" don't railroad this poor guy.

    It's too bad about the civilian who bought it, but maybe that ought to make people think about their provocative actions. He wouldn't have had a public servant's weapon pointed at him if he hadn't been doing something to warrant it.

    Looks like procedures were followed, so IMHO it was a good self-defense action from the cop.

    Screw you POS civilians who can write all this from the comfort of your basements while being protected from threats by peace officers.

  • WTF||

    Needz moar 'bigorati' and 'hth'.

  • Auric Demonocles||

    Needs more bigorati and afpapic

  • sarcasmic||

    +1 Police One

  • Mainer2||

    Too much capitalization and proper sentence structure.

  • ||

    Good lord. Nothing's gonna stop this guy.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    Solid Concepts' gun isn't so much about what is right now as much as it's about what's possible. And, as a proof of concept, it suggests that 3D metal printing can, indeed, be used to manufacture a firearm. Which suggests in turn that legislators and regulators should probably start thinking, right now instead of later on, about where DIY weapons will fit into our brave new world.

    Obviously, 3D laser sintering technology must be tightly regulated, if not banned outright. Don't tell her about mills and lathes. She might swallow her tongue.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    Fortunately, I was saved from reading the comments to that Atlantic article; disqs comment systems don't like my computer.

  • Rrabbit||

    So *that's* how the cops will now prevent citizens from lawfully recording that the cops are doing.

  • Paul.||

    If the shooting was justified, why did the city settle?

    Oh, I fucking know. I know... It's because that's how cities buy their way out of breaking the law. They can murder you with impunity, merely with a multi-million dollar payout to a family. Cop: Working, on the streets.

    FYTW.

  • Paul.||

    Nevertheless, prosecutors cleared Sierra in the Farmer shooting, accepting the officer’s claim that he feared for his life and insisting the situation was more complicated than the video suggested.

    And when the cops get body cameras which show just how FUCK crazy America's policing philosophy has become, imagine just how extra-super-duper complicated the scenario will be claimed to be as officers continued to get cleared in 100% of every goddamned case. Fuck this place.

  • R C Dean||

    One was a wound to Farmer's right hand that suggested he was pointing his arm at Sierra when he was shot.

    Also consistent with a defensive wound, or with the corpse-to-be showing the officer that all he had in his hand was a phone.

    I mean, really, they seem to be saying that the corpse-to-be's alleged weapon was in plain view, are they not? And that reasonable people mistake cell phones held in plain view for guns ALL THE TIME, right?

    Jeebus. Its insulting that they can't even tell good lies.

  • Paul.||

    At the same time, the police union was demanding a 12 percent pay raise and bonuses for having to live in the city of Chicago, while the police department said it couldn’t afford to respond to every 911 call.

    The justice system, then, defers to police officers in cases of deadly force, while the police union restricts the department from taking the kind of severe disciplinary measures that might increase the perceived cost to the police officer of doing something like firing 16 rounds in 4 seconds. As it stands, the costs are shouldered by the victims, and in the case of settlements, by the taxpayers too.

    it's the new aristocracy, baby. Let us eat cake.

  • thorax232||

    What's with all the scared cops shooting all over the place like wild dogs all the time? Whatever happened to learning about making proper judgements in stressful situations? I feel like it won't be long before I'd reading a story about how a baby got shot because the wind blew, and it scared a cop.

  • frankania||

    Cops should only enforce laws that have a clear "victim" as in robbery, beating, kidnapping, etc.
    It is because they are working on terrible "crimes" such as prostitution, gambling, ingesting plants, working without a permit, etc.(crimes without victims) that they encounter such complications.

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