CHICAGO —A police accountability office and the Chicago police superintendent have agreed to doubling the 90-day suspension that had been suggested for a Chicago police sergeant found to have unjustifiably shot an unarmed autistic 18-year-old.
The Civilian Office of Police Accountability in September completed its investigation of the Aug. 13, 2017 shooting of Ricardo “Ricky” Hayes, then 18, by off-duty Sgt. Khalil Muhammad. The office concluded Muhammad acted in an “objectively unreasonable” fashion. However, since then agency officials consulted with police Superintendent Eddie Johnson and agreed that Muhammad’s punishment should be doubled to six months without pay, COPA spokesman Ephraim Eaddy said after the original decision was revealed Monday.
No charges have been filed before the Chicago Police Board, which would decide Muhammad’s punishment.
Gabriel Hardy, attorney for Hayes, who survived the shooting, told the Chicago Tribune the recommendation of COPA is “incredibly troubling.”
Muhammad could not be reached for comment Monday.
In a video of the shooting, Hayes can be seen running along the sidewalk then stopping. Muhammed pulled up alongside, with parked cars between them. Hayes took a few steps toward him and Muhammed shot him in the arm and chest. Hayes survived the shooting.
“Deadly force was not reasonably necessary because Sergeant Muhammad could have simply driven away from the potential threat,” the Tribune reports COPA concluded.
In a federal lawsuit filed on Hayes’ behalf over the shooting, Muhammad has denied any wrongdoing, court records show. He was placed indefinitely on paid desk duty after the shooting.
Chicago police Sgt. Isaac Lambert was assigned to investigate the shooting. Lambert alleges in a lawsuit filed last week he was retaliated against by his bosses for refusing to clear Muhammad of culpability in the shooting.
“I don’t want this guy on the street with a gun, because he shot at Ricardo Hayes for no reason,” said Torreya Hamilton, the attorney for Lambert.
At the time of the shooting, police officials described the incident as an armed confrontation. An audio file of the sergeant’s call to 911 has also been released.
“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.
Muhammad told investigators in his initial interview more than a month after the incident that he identified himself as a police officer and asked the person what he was doing but that the male said something and ran off. After making a U-turn, Muhammad said he again announced his office to the male and said, “Let me see your hands,” the COPA report said. Muhammad said he feared for his life and fired his semi-automatic pistol twice. Johnson later said Hayes had no weapon.
Fire Department personnel who responded to the scene told COPA investigators Hayes kept repeating he didn’t know why he was shot because he was just reaching for his phone.