A Chicago cop who shot and killed a Black man who had called 911 to say he was the victim of a domestic violence incident had a history of drinking and had been recommended for termination by his superintendent years before.
According to a redacted incident report released Wednesday by Chicago’s police oversight agency, responding officers arrived on the scene at 7:40 a.m. on Oct. 4 after Michael Craig, 61, told an operator that his wife was holding a knife to his throat as he lay in bed.
“I need the police over here, my wife’s got a knife on my neck, on the bed. Are there any officers coming here?” Craig told dispatchers, according to a recording of the call.
“My wife’s got a knife on me on the bed—right now, on my throat,” Craig said. “She’s got a knife on my neck, and I can’t move. If I move she’ll kill me. I’ve got the front door open, tell the officers the door is open, my kid is opening the door.”
He can be heard directing his son to “go downstairs,” to allow the police in.
Civilian Office of Police Accountability spokesman Ephraim Eaddy insisted in a press release announcing the document drop that cops had “engaged” Craig and his wife before a weapon was fired, but body cam footage paints a different picture, showing an officer firing two shots at Craig within moments of entering the apartment.
An officer can be heard calling out as he approaches the apartment, to which Craig exclaimed, “She’s got a butcher knife to my neck.”
Screams can be heard as the officer takes a couple of steps and fires both his Taser and a gun at Craig as he and his wife can be seen fighting and dropping to the ground, according to video footage.
Moments later as he draws closer to the couple, who are lying in the doorway of a bathroom, the officer fires a second shot at Craig, footage shows.
Warning: Graphic footage
“The horror of this is that a domestic violence victim called out for help from the police and ended up getting shot by the police,” the family’s lawyer, Michael Oppenheimer, told The Daily Beast on Friday.
Oppenheimer said that he believed Covarrubias had “targeted” Craig—“almost like an execution.”
“The fact that he had a Taser in one hand and a gun in the other is so improper and strange,” he said.
According to Oppenheimer, Craig’s wife, Tiffany Willis, had a history of violent and erratic behavior during their ten-year marriage, which was well documented in the neighborhood. She had been arrested for stabbing Craig in 2016, Oppenheimer said, and had stabbed him “five times” before police arrived last month.
“She had acted erratically all around the neighborhood,” he said. “The police knew that, I don’t know if this officer knew it, but the police knew it.”
A police report notes three past incidents of domestic abuse.
A neighbor had also called 911 on Craig’s behalf that day, telling dispatchers that Craig’s wife was threatening him. When officers arrived at the home, bodycam footage shows Craig’s seven-year-old son telling them that his father had called police after his mom pulled a knife on him.
“Everything my father told them, everything he cried out for, they ignored,” Craig’s older son, Patrick Jenkins, told the Chicago Sun-Times. “And then they let him die like a dog.”
The Chicago Police Department’s communications office told The Daily Beast on Friday that Covarrubias has been on administrative desk duty since Oct. 5, but declined to say what, if any, further disciplinary action might be taken.
The day that Covarrubias killed Craig wasn’t the first time his conduct drew criticism or concern in what the family’s lawyers are now calling a police “cover up.”
“He shouldn’t have been there in the first place,” Jenkins said during a press conference with the family’s lawyers on Friday, adding that the officer’s history showed “he was not capable of being responsible enough” to respond to his dad’s emergency call.
According to a Chicago police board memo, a police superintendent in 2018 had filed charges with the board over concerns about Covarrubias’ fitness to serve after a 2016 arrest for a domestic disturbance in which he “appeared to be intoxicated,” refused to take a breathalyzer test, and was charged with assault for threatening another officer.
The superintendent testified that Covarrubias admitted he had “been under enormous amounts of stress related to his job as a police officer and that he did not drink prior to joining the Police Department. He testified that he was affected by the poverty, despair, and violence that he encountered on a daily basis.”
The police board found Covarrubias guilty of violating several of its rules—but instead of firing him ordered for his suspension, a copy of a memo states.
The board ordered that, to be reinstated, Covarrubias needed to be “certified as psychologically fit for duty” and asked that he submit to the board actions he had taken to remain sober after completing treatment for alcohol dependency in 2016.
Just four months later, Covarrubias was back on the job, after submitting a report from a clinical psychologist attesting to his fitness for duty. He submitted a statement swearing he had been sober since the arrest with testimony from friends claiming they hadn’t seen him drink after spending time with him on “many occasions” where alcohol was served.
He also said he had completed a month-long in-patient treatment program and a six-week intensive out-patient treatment program in Chicago for alcohol dependency after his 2016 arrest.
A police report from the latest incident lists Covarrubias’ sobriety on the day he shot Craig as “unknown.”
“It takes a lot for a police superintendent to ask that someone be fired,” Oppenheimer said. “He should have never been on the force, so they put someone they knew was not prepared, who was unstable, who was dangerous, and they left him on the force and now he killed a domestic violence victim.”
Oppenheimer said in the coming weeks he intends to file a federal lawsuit against the police department.
The Mayor’s Office did not respond to The Daily Beast’s request for comment on Friday.