The Chicago Police Board voted 5-3 Thursday evening to clear Officer Brandon Ternand of all wrongdoing, after the city police’s watchdog agency found him at fault for shooting and killing an unarmed and fleeing 15-year-old boy nearly six years ago. The Chicago Tribune reports Friday that in November 2012, Ternand and his partner were responding to a call when they say they saw Dakota Bright step into an alley with a gun in his hands. A chase ensued, and Ternand pursued Bright through residential backyards before shooting him once in the back of the head. Ternand claims that he saw Bright reach to his left and turn his head, suggesting that he may fire his gun. But an investigation revealed that Bright did not have a gun at the time he died—although one was found nearby—and he was shot directly in the midline of his head, which would have been impossible if he was turning to face Ternand.
Some members of the board discredited the forensic evidence, noting that it came from the prosecution’s lawyer. While the watchdog group found Ternand’s conduct “unprovoked and unwarranted,” some members of the police board found his testimony “credible and persuasive,” and labeled him “a highly decorated and respected tactical officer with years of experience.” The Tribune notes that Ternand was one of a dozen police officers with the most complaints between December 2010 and 2014, in a police force with more than 12,000 members. When Bright’s mother was informed of the board’s decision by a Tribune reporter, she was reportedly shocked, asking “There’s nothing I can do about it?”