CHICAGO — Cook County prosecutors on Wednesday dropped charges against two Chicago police officers who were accused of beating a teenager after a car chase.
Officers Jeffery Shafer, 38, and Victor Guebara, 42, were charged with six felony counts of aggravated battery and official misconduct after prosecutors said they punched a teenage boy in the face and head while he was on the ground about to be arrested.
Prosecutors dropped the charges in front of a courtroom packed with police officers after the alleged victim in this case failed to appear in court as a bench trial before Judge Angela Petrone was set to begin.
Groups of officers filed out afterward, hugging, clapping each other on the backs and shaking hands with Shafer and Guebara.
In January of 2021, Shafer and Guebara were in Woodlawn chasing a 17-year-old after, police said, the teen stole a car, used it to strike a police vehicle and allegedly pointed a gun at cops.
The officers followed the Camaro the teen drove through residential streets, and at one point, the 17-year-old boy lost control and drove onto the sidewalk. The car then hit the passenger’s side of the squad car, while “traveling at a low speed,” according to prosecutors.
The continued pursuing until the car crashed into a brick garage and the teen and two other occupants of the car ran away, prosecutors said at a 2021 bond hearing.
After the teen surrendered, another officer turned the boy on his stomach and prepared to handcuff him behind his back, prosecutors said. It was then, they alleged, that Guebara hit the boy in the face with a closed fist as the boy was on his stomach.
Shafer also got out of the squad car and straddled the boy from behind and hit him on the head with a closed fist four times, prosecutors said. He pushed the boy’s head into the concrete sidewalk, they alleged. The boy moved his arms to protect his head and face but they were then brought back to be put into handcuffs.
Neither Shafer nor Guebara activated their body-worn cameras but the confrontation was captured by the body-worn cameras of assisting officers and a nearby POD camera, authorities said.
After the brief hearing at the Leighton Criminal Courts Building, attorneys representing Shafer and Guebara contended that the case should never have been charged, and said the officers’ lives have been on hold since the charges were filed in September of 2021.
“These guys had to live through these cases for three years,” said Brian Sexton, who represented Guebara.
Tim Grace, who represented Shafer, said prosecutors could not meet their burden of proof.
“They willy nilly indict Chicago police officers with no thought about it … then the cases get dismissed,” he said.
The state’s attorney’s office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
The case is another example of the challenges Cook County prosecutors have faced when trying Chicago police officers in connection with on duty incidents.
Despite winning a historic guilty verdict from a jury against former Chicago police Officer Jason Van Dyke in the killing of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald in 2018, the office has lost a number of subsequent cases against officers that mostly went before judges in bench trials.
In September, a judge acquitted two Chicago police officers who were accused of an unjustified on-duty shooting in Pilsen in July of 2022. The officers, Christopher Liakopoulos and Ruben Reynoso, were both present at Wednesday’s dismissal.
After that acquittal, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx said her office did not bring the charges “lightly” but said they “do not have to excuse behavior that runs afoul of the law.” She said it is “non-coincidental” that the officers chose to go before a judge rather than a jury of their peers.
In August, prosecutors dropped charges against an officer who was accused of battering a woman at North Avenue Beach in an on-duty incident.
Another Chicago police officer was acquitted by a judge in June after he was accused of pinning down a 14-year-old in Park Ridge.
Last January, a judge found a Chicago police lieutenant not guilty after he stood trial on accusations that he shoved a flashlight between a clothed teen’s buttocks during an arrest.
In 2022, Chicago police Officer Melvina Bogard was acquitted by a judge after prosecutors charged her with aggravated battery and official misconduct in connection with a shooting at the Grand Red Line stop in 2020.
(Tribune reporters Christy Gutowski and Stacy St. Clair contributed)