Editor's Note, 6/6/2016: The Independent Police Review Authority said Monday that cases of killings by police that were missing from its online portal were excluded because they are in fact closed cases.
CHICAGO — At least three killings by police not included in a large release of evidence on Friday by the city’s Independent Police Review Authority, were missing because they have been closed, but the summaries of those cases were never added to the agency’s website, IPRA said on Monday.
All available video, audio, and reports associated with police shooting cases that are still being investigated by IPRA were supposed to have been made available to the public via the agency’s website on Friday. But at least three cases appeared to have been missing, a Daily Beast investigation found, based on IPRA’s annual reports and summary reports of individual cases.
“It has been clear that we all agree that there’s a lack of trust and that increased transparency is essential in rebuilding that trust,” IPRA’s chief administrator Sharon Fairley said of the public, the agency, Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office, and the Chicago Police Department at a press conference announcing the online portal last week.
The creation of the portal and its unveiling last week was hailed by many as a move toward greater transparency for the beleaguered police oversight agency. Considering the previous policy allowed city officials to sit on videos of police shootings nearly indefinitely, the creation of IPRA’s case portal (and a new policy to releasing videos within 90 days of the incident) is a major step forward.
The first case that appeared to be missing from the portal is the death of Mark Garcia, who police say was robbing a Walgreen’s on Feb. 3, 2014 when he was confronted by an off-duty officer. The officer was said to have been concerned about a cashier he saw stuffing money into a bag. The officer told Garcia he was a cop and asked him to get on the ground, according to Fraternal Order of Police spokesman Pat Camden.
“[Garcia] knelt down, but said he wasn’t going to be arrested and the officer would have to shoot him,” Camden told the Chicago Tribune at the time. “[Garcia] then reached into his pocket as if he had a gun.”
It is unclear if Garcia was armed. Camden told the Tribune only that police recovered “what appeared to be a semi-automatic handgun from the scene.” (For police to be found justified in killing a suspect, they need only feel “reasonable fear” that their lives are in danger.)
Garcia’s autopsy, obtained last year by The Daily Beast, showed that the 56-year-old was shot once in the shoulder, with the bullet travelling back to front.
Sissac said Monday that the officer’s actions in the fatal shooting of Garcia were found justified and that the case was closed in October of 2014. As of Monday the findings of the investigation had not yet been uploaded to the website, but Sissac insisted that report would be available soon.
The second fatal police shooting that appeared to be omitted from IPRA’s online case portal is the death of Steven Isby. Like Garcia, Isby was shot and killed by an off-duty Chicago police officer during what former Superintendent Garry McCarthy described as an attempted burglary. McCarthy told the Tribune that the officer was still in his uniform and on his way home from work on Aug. 11, 2014 when he saw Isby attempting to break into a building.
The officer confronted Isby, who was allegedly holding a screwdriver, and a struggle ensued. The officer was shot once in the arm and Isby died as a result the scuffle, according to McCarthy.
“Not clear how he [the officer] got shot, whether the gun got taken away from [the officer] and he got it back, or whether or not it discharged while he was fighting with him,” McCarthy said at the time.
Isby was shot at least eight times that night, with all of the bullets striking his chest and arms and travelling front to back, according to Isby’s autopsy reviewed by The Daily Beast last year.
The officer in Isby’s case was also cleared of wrongdoing by IPRA, Sissac said on Monday.
The Daily Beast review also found, based on IPRA’s own statistics, that at least one fatal shooting from 2011 was missing from the portal.
That year, IPRA’s annual report identified 23 fatal police shootings. Reports available on the agency’s website show that 17 fatal police shooting cases have been closed, leaving six as pending or open investigations. On Monday, Sissac said that all of those cases have been closed, with officers being exonerated of wrongdoing in nearly all of them.