Nearly seven years later, two Chicago police officers face firing for roles in fight allegedly sparked by racial slur

Two Chicago police officers who sat on desk duty for nearly seven years while under investigation for a fight in a downtown parking garage allegedly sparked by the use of a racial slur face firing from the department, records show.

Late last month, Chicago police Superintendent David Brown moved to dismiss Officers Marc Jarocki and Michael Kelly on several allegations, including failing to come to the aid of a third officer involved in the fight. That officer was badly beaten and had his gun taken.

The officers facing firing allegedly failed to promptly call 911 or anyone from the Police Department about the incident, according to disciplinary charges filed with the Chicago Police Board. A lawyer representing the officers had no comment.

The department’s bureau of internal affairs investigated the fight amid allegations that at least one of the three officers instigated it by using the racial slur against a Black man who they saw in the Loop garage. The injured officer was a sergeant who has since left the department.

The case also represents another failure in Chicago’s complicated police disciplinary system to investigate allegations of police misconduct in a timely manner. Critics of the system say such delays are unfair to victims of police misconduct who deserve justice, as well as some officers who could be taken off the street for many years as unfounded accusations against them are weighed.

In Jarocki and Kelly’s case, it took almost seven years and five Chicago police administrations for disciplinary charges to be brought, and even as the department is more than two years into a federal consent decree which mandates improvement in its policing practices.

The case involving the two officers also was the subject of a 2017 federal lawsuit filed by Joseph Baskins, the Black man who was with a group of friends and loved ones in a parking garage elevator, where they encountered Jarocki, Kelly and the sergeant, Patrick Gilmore. The trio, along with the city of Chicago, were named as defendants in the lawsuit, which the city settled with Baskins in 2019 for $450,000.

Jarocki and Kelly’s case will now go before the police board, which will decide in the coming months whether the officers should be fired after a quasi-trial of sorts to consider the evidence against them.

The disciplinary charges filed by Brown to the police board do not offer many specifics about the fight, which occurred Oct. 30, 2014 in the parking garage in the 100 block of West Madison Street. But according to Baskins’ lawsuit, he and his fiancee were downtown that day because they were supposed to get married at City Hall.

The couple was joined by Baskins’ cousin, his friend and that friend’s small child. At City Hall, a judge presiding over weddings announced an intermission in marriage procedures, so Baskins and the rest of his group headed to the parking garage to smoke, the friend told the Tribune in an interview in 2014.

They eventually boarded an elevator to the parking garage and the three white officers, Jarocki, Kelly and Gilmore, got on with them, according to the suit. The officers at the time were downtown to meet with city Law Department attorneys about another lawsuit in which they were defendants. But by the time the officers were on the elevator, Baskins’ suit alleged, they had been drinking at a nearby bar.

According to the suit, one of the officers told Baskins to the effect of “you are on the wrong elevator,” referred to him and his group by using the N-word and made other racist remarks.

Baskins asked the officer what he said and one of the other officers responded, “You heard what he said,” the suit alleged. Baskins accused Gilmore of punching him in the mouth before the two began fighting and grappling on the ground, according to the suit.

At some point during the skirmish, Gilmore pulled a gun and pointed it at Baskins, the suit alleged. It also alleged Baskins then heard his friend scream words to the effect of, “it’s a gun! It’s a gun!” That’s when Baskins’ friend kicked the gun away from Gilmore, according to the suit.

“My 2-year-old daughter, I was in fear for her and for her safety. I didn’t know he was police. I just kicked the gun out of his hand because I was scared,” the friend, Brian Williams, told the Tribune in the 2014 interview.

Baskins then grabbed the gun, and he and the rest of his group got away from the officers. Baskins was eventually arrested on an illegal gun charge for possessing the firearm, but the charge was later dropped.

The suit also alleged that Gilmore and the other officers falsely claimed to authorities that they smelled marijuana when encountering the group and were trying to arrest Baskins because they believed he had the drug on him.

“The defendant officers then claimed that Baskins and his group were the aggressors,” according to the suit, “and initiated criminal action against Baskins as a means of covering up their actions.”

The suit also alleged that when the officers met with two city Law Department attorneys after the fight, the lawyers offered them gum to hide the smell of alcohol on their breath. Those lawyers both resigned following an investigation by the city’s inspector general’s office.

According to other disciplinary charges against Kelly in the case, he’s accused of not notifying police officials that he had left the Law Department’s offices earlier in the day until three hours after the fact. That is considered a payroll- and timekeeping-related Police Department violation, officials said.

The accusations against Jarocki and Kelly stem from several alleged Police Department rule violations, most of which include bringing discredit to the department; failing to promote its efforts; failing to perform any duty; and failing to report promptly to the department any information about a crime “or other unlawful action,” the disciplinary charges show.

On Nov. 4, 2014, five days after the incident, the two officers were relieved of their police powers, meaning they were assigned to paid desk duty without the ability to carry a badge or gun for work purposes, records show. But in light of the disciplinary charges, they could be forced to take an unpaid leave of absence as case goes through the police board process.