COPA releases reports on two high-profile police encounters, including North Avenue Beach incident that resulted in charges against cop

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The office that investigates serious misconduct against members of the Chicago Police Department released its summary of findings and recommendations Thursday on two high-profile incidents that caused the Chicago Police Department to come under public scrutiny.

The most recent of those incidents was the North Avenue Beach encounter caught on video that went viral last year. After midnight on Aug. 28, now-retired Chicago police Officer Bruce Dyker was on duty at the beach when he approached Nikkita Brown, a Black woman who was walking her dog, telling her that the beach was closed and she needed to leave.

Brown asked Dyker to step away from her because he was not wearing a mask and invading her personal space. Dyker “became increasingly argumentative and verbally combative” with Brown, according to the report. Dyker then grabbed her arm and body and Brown struggled with him until he released her and allowed her to leave the park. Dyker did not arrest Brown or issue her any citations.

The Civilian Office of Police Accountability found that Dyker did not racially profile Brown because, according to body-worn camera footage, Dyker appeared to also give a Black couple and four white or Hispanic males the same order to leave the park before his interaction with Brown.

The report did find that Dyker’s use of force was not reasonable or necessary given Brown presented minimal resistance, “most of which was verbal rather than physical.” It also found that Dyker failed to use de-escalation techniques to prevent the use of force.

“Video footage of this incident has been widely circulated and brought significant discredit to the department,” the COPA report said. “Officer Dyker’s entire interaction with (Brown) was an abject failure..”

The watchdog recommended Dyker receive a penalty between 180 days suspension and separation from the department, according to the report. Although, Dyker has retired since the incident. Dyker made his first court appearance earlier this month, when he pleaded not guilty to felony charges including official misconduct and was released on his own recognizance.

The second summary report detailed the encounter between police and Mia Wright in May 2020, near the Brickyard Mall, 2600 N. Narragansett Ave. The incident occurred following civil unrest in the city prompted by the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer.

COPA found that Officer David Laskus provided false information about the red Hyundai that Wright was inside during the incident. He said that the vehicle and those occupants were involved with an attempted looting of the Champs sporting goods store in the mall.

Later, the people in the Hyundai all said in statements that they were not involved in looting at the mall, the report said.

In his statements, Laskus claimed that he saw one of the people in the Hyundai standing in front of Champs, holding a hammer.

COPA found that the people in the Hyundai never had a hammer, the report said.

The driver of the Hyundai briefly accelerated in the direction of a group of officers as they tried to order everyone to exit the vehicle, and when she stopped the car, police eventually broke multiple windows.

Everyone inside other than Wright exited the vehicle, and Officer Raymond Duncker grabbed her and passed her to Laskus, who pulled her hair and took her to the ground, the report said.

Multiple officers took one witness who tried to block police to the ground and handcuffed her while Officer Patrick Dwyer continued to make comments that were racist and sexist, including “(expletive) animal,” COPA found.

COPA recommended that Laskus be fired from the department. Last week, police Superintendent David Brown filed disciplinary charges with the Chicago Police Board against him, seeking his dismissal.

COPA also recommended that Dwyer be fired but he retired on July 15, 2020.

pfry@chicagotribune.com