2 Chicago cops charged after video apparently contradicts their reports of Pilsen shooting

Two Chicago police officers are facing felony charges after prosecutors say video of a shooting in Pilsen showed they lied about what happened.

Sgt. Christopher Liakopoulos, 43, and Officer Ruben Reynoso, 42, claimed they returned fire after shots were fired at them early on the morning of July 22. The officers were not hit, but two other people were wounded, one seriously.

But Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx said at a news conference Friday the officers’ claims “were contradicted by videotaped evidence,” and Liakopoulos and Reynoso were actually fired first.

The man the officers shot did not have a gun, Foxx noted.

“The officers did not have provocation or justification to shoot the unarmed victim,” she said. “Evidence does not support use of deadly force.”

Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx announces charges against two Chicago police officers Friday morning.

Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx announces charges against two Chicago police officers Friday morning.

Pat Nabong/Chicago Sun-Times

Reynoso and Liakopoulos were both charged with aggravated battery with a firearm, aggravated discharge of a firearm and official misconduct. They could face a maximum of 30 years in prison, Foxx said.

Judge Maryam Ahmad ordered each officer to post $2,500 bond as well as surrender any weapons they own and their firearm owners identification cards. The judge said she was setting a monetary bail based on the seriousness of the Class X charges.

Reynoso has been on the job since 2003 and Liakopoulos since 2001, Foxx said. Both were assigned to the Major Accidents Unit at the time of the shooting.

Officers fired from within squad car, prosecutors say

The officers — in plainclothes with Liakopoulos at the wheel of an unmarked squad car — were headed to a training course when they stopped to investigate a group of people in the 1000 block of West 18th Street, Assistant State’s Attorney Alyssa Janicki said during the officers’ hearings.

Because they were on their way to training, neither was wearing a body-worn camera, Janicki said.

Police officer Ruben Reynoso, in gray jacket, and Sgt.  Christopher Liakopoulos, in black hoodie, run to a car after posting bond and walking out of Cook County Jail Friday, Sept.  16, 2022.

Police officer Ruben Reynoso, in gray jacket, and Sgt. Christopher Liakopoulos, in black hoodie, run to a car after posting bond and walking out of Cook County Jail Friday, Sept. 16, 2022.

As the officers talked to the group, Miguel Medina, 23, and a 17-year-old boy with a satchel across the front of his body approached, Janicki said. Medina was holding a wine bottle and cellphone in one hand, but his other hand was empty.

Medina was standing at the passenger side window of the squad and showing officers both his hands when Reynoso extended his arm from the window of the squad car and pointed a gun, Janicki said.

Liakopoulos also reached for his gun and leaned across Reynoso as both officers opened fire, striking Medina in the back and leg, Janicki said.

The 17-year-old took off running, grabbing a gun from his satchel and firing at the officers, who returned fire, Janicki said. A 35-year-old man walking in the area suffered a grave wound to his leg, according to officials.

When police sought attempted murder charges against the boy, both officers told detectives the boy shot first and they only fired afterward, Janicki said.

When interviewed by the state’s attorney’s office the next day, the officers allegedly said they didn’t know who shot first but the juvenile pointed a gun at them before they fired at Medina.

Several days after the shooting, prosecutors said they obtained surveillance video that contradicted those statements.

Chicago Police Sgt.  Christopher Liakopoulos, left, and Chicago Police Officer Ruben Reynoso face charges of aggravated battery with a handgun, aggravated discharge of a handgun and official misconduct.

Chicago Police Sgt. Christopher Liakopoulos, left, and Chicago Police Officer Ruben Reynoso face charges of aggravated battery with a handgun, aggravated discharge of a handgun and official misconduct.

Cook County sheriff’s office

‘We don’t use 20/20 hindsight’

Reynoso was on his way to teach a class at the Chicago Police Academy, his attorney Brian Sexton said in court.

Sexton argued it didn’t matter who fired first because the 17-year-old pointed a gun at the officers. But he admitted under questioning by the judge the surveillance video didn’t show that because the angle of the camera was behind the boy.

Sexton also contended that during the exchange of fire Reynoso was focused on the 17-year-old with the gun and never shot in the direction of Medina.

As for Reynoso’s conflicting statements, Sexton argued, “There’s a whole body of science …that says when you have a traumatic, stressful event like this, you’re not going to remember things right away.”

Once Reynoso was able to watch the video, Sexton said, he told the Civilian Office of Police Accountability and the state’s attorney’s office he “just didn’t remember” the shooting.

“This whole thing about contradicting or lying — that’s completely false, that’s not true at all,” Sexton insisted.

He 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.”

“Judge, these are on-duty police officers who are confronted by an armed assailant who points a gun at them and eventually fires at them,” Grace said. “We are supposed to see if the police officer‘s actions were objectively reasonable — 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 expected COPA to release only “half the video,” indicating it wouldn’t release surveillance video showing the 17-year-old firing and asked the judge to stop the release, which he expected to happen next week.

The judge denied that request several times, saying the bond hearing was not the proper venue for such an order. A hearing was set for Monday for arguments.

COPA has until Sept. 22 to release the video, in accordance with its policies.

Miguel Medina

Miguel Medina, who was shot by Chicago police officers on July 22 in Pilsen.

‘Recovering slowly but surely’

Attorneys for Medina said they have filed a lawsuit against Liakopoulos and the city in federal court, alleging false arrest and excessive force.

“Miguel Medina was not committing any crimes or breaking any laws,” attorney Gregory Kulis said in a statement. “Miguel Medina walked away. At that time, it is believed that Chicago Police Officer Christopher Liakopoulos started firing at the individuals, including Miguel Medina.”

Reached by phone Friday, Medina said the officers “shot me for no reason. Once the video is released, it will show what happened.”

Medina said he was walking to a friend’s apartment the morning of the shooting and wasn’t holding anything in his hands when he was shot. He said he was angry and that the city “really has to do a better job of hiring the officers they put out there.”

“It makes me feel mad,” he said. “I understand there’s good cops out there, but there’s bad cops out there, too.”

Medina said he was “recovering slowly but surely” from his wounds.

Don Terry, a Chicago police spokesman, declined to comment on the police investigation. “This is now a criminal case,” he said. “We’re not commenting any further. What you have, you’ve gotta get from the state’s attorney, who just held a press conference.”

What Brown knew and when

Chicago Police Supt. David Brown initially said the officers approached a group of four masked people around 7 am outside a store. When the officers identified themselves, a gunman in the group started firing at them in their squad car, Brown said.

A source with knowledge of the early police investigation said officials initially had only one video of the shooting, which was hard to make out and had no sound. Brown’s claims at a news conference after the incident relied mostly on the allegedly false statements of the two charged officers, the source said.

A short time later, more video surfaced that contradicted those statements, the source said. Brown, however, never briefed the media about the changing narrative.

In announcing the charges Friday, Foxx told reporters “we do not celebrate in the charging of police … But we cannot ignore or stand by acts of unprovoked violence, even by the hands of those who are sworn to serve and protect out community. ”

This story has been edited to remove the word “immediately” attributed to Supt. David Brown as he talked about a gunman opening fire on two officers.

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