A Chicago police officer who taught use of force at the city’s police academy was arrested on charges of shooting a man in the hand and illegally firing his gun during a confrontation on a Northwest Side street late last year.
Officer Kevin Bunge, 39, was charged with aggravated battery and unlawful use of a weapon, both felonies, after turning himself in Wednesday morning to Chicago police’s bureau of internal affairs.
During a bond hearing broadcast on YouTube later in the day, Cook County Judge John Lyke ordered Bunge held in the county jail on a $10,000 deposit bond, which means he needs to pay $1,000 for his release.
The charges stem from a Dec. 11 confrontation in the 3300 block of West Irving Park Road. That night, Bunge was off-duty when he shot Jomner Orozco in the hand after he pulled up in a vehicle behind him.
A lawsuit filed by Orzoco and a passenger in the vehicle, Carlos Ramirez, alleges Bunge used unreasonable force against the two men.
Prosecutors said Wednesday that on the night of the shooting, Bunge was on his way home from the police academy, where he had been teaching. His car was parked and he was listening to a recording of a book, prosecutors said.
According to the suit, Orozco and Ramirez pulled over behind Bunge while they were going to meet another friend of Orozco’s. The two men were unarmed, the suit states.
Ramirez was using GPS on his phone to navigate and give Orozco directions. Orozco, though, questioned whether the GPS was accurate, so he pulled over, the suit states.
The two pulled up behind Bunge, who was in his parked SUV. At some point, Bunge got out and approached Orozco’s vehicle, holding a handgun and displaying a Chicago police star around his neck, according to the suit.
“Without cause or justification, defendant Bunge pointed his firearm toward Mr. Orozco and Mr. Ramirez and fired at them multiple times,” the suit states.
Orozco rapidly reversed his vehicle and sped off, according to the suit. The gunfire caused “significant physical injury to two of the fingers on his right hand,” the lawsuit alleged.
Ramirez was hit in the face by glass from a shattered car window, and the volume of the gunshots “caused significant pain and hearing loss in his left ear,” the lawsuit alleged.
While the lawsuit said no gun was found on the plaintiffs, Bunge’s lawyer, Tim Grace, said Wednesday his client was only defending himself from a suspect who pointed a gun at him.
Grace said his client taught use of force in the police academy and that Bunge did “what he taught in the academy ... when you encounter deadly force” when de-escalation isn’t a feasible option.
“He had a reasonable belief of death or (great) bodily harm,” said Grace.
“He had no cover,” Grace said. “He did not have the ability to defend himself.”
The lawsuit, however, also accused Bunge of making false statements about the shooting in a police report.
In that report, posted by the Civilian Office of Police Accountability on its website, Bunge stated to an incident commander that he heard gunfire and saw an occupant from Orozco’s vehicle point a gun at him before Bunge fired off two rounds.
“Private video recovered on-scene shows the incident which is inconclusive as to the actions of the persons in the vehicle,” the police report states. “The video indicates at least one round is fired by (Bunge) as the vehicle reverses and while the vehicle is several car lengths from (Bunge).
According to a 911 call provided by COPA, Bunge told the call taker that he was driving home from work when a red car pulled up behind him and “let off a few shots” before he returned fire. He told the call taker the driver had a weapon.
“The vehicle pulled up behind me. I heard what sounded like ... automatic gunfire. I thought my car was getting shot at and then I got out and I had my police star around my neck,” Bunge said on the 911 call. “And I walked up to their car with my gun out ...”
The suit, however, states that the two men “had committed no crime, were unarmed, and posed absolutely no threat to defendant Bunge or any other person.”
COPA released the police report and video footage of the shooting and its aftermath as part of the city’s video release policy. The report states Bunge has been a Chicago cop since 2013 and was assigned to the police academy at the time of the shooting.
In setting $10,000 bail for Bunge, Lyke noted several factors including that Bunge had worked in some of the most violent patrol districts in the city during his eight-year career as a Chicago police officer, he’s been married for seven years, has a 4-year-old daughter and is not a flight risk.
Since Bunge is charged with a felony, he could eventually go into a no-pay status with the Chicago Police Department while the new criminal case goes through the court system. Before the new criminal charges, Bunge had already been relieved of his police powers — an action taken by the Police Department that prohibits Chicago cops from carrying a badge and a gun for work, and typically makes them only allowed to be assigned to paid desk duty — pending COPA’s investigation.
Bunge was scheduled to appear in court again on March 25.