Two officers involved in controversial shooting on busy downtown Red Line CTA platform now face firing from Chicago Police Department

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
Jeremy Gorner, Chicago Tribune
·5 min read
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Two officers involved in the shooting of an unarmed man last year as they struggled to detain him at a busy downtown CTA train station now face dismissal from the Chicago Police Department, city records show.

Police Department-related charges were filed Tuesday against Officers Melvina Bogard and Bernard Butler in connection with an intense encounter that led to what officials alleged was the unnecessary shooting of Ariel Roman on Feb. 28, 2020, at the Grand Avenue Red Line station.

The officers, both Chicago cops since November 2017, face allegations of numerous rule violations, ranging from bringing discredit to the Police Department and engaging in an unjustified verbal or physical altercation, to incompetency or inefficiency during the performance of their duties. Allegations of disrespecting or mistreating a person also were included.

The disciplinary charges come in the wake of the revelation that a federal criminal investigation has also been launched in the case. The status of that probe remains unknown, and a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office could not immediately be reached for comment.

Chicago police Superintendent David Brown and the city’s Law Department moved to fire Bogard, who pulled the trigger, and Butler. The two officers eventually will face an evidentiary hearing before the Chicago Police Board, a nine-member panel that ultimately decides whether city cops should lose their jobs.

Typically, it takes several months for a new Chicago police disciplinary case to go to such a hearing before the board. That timeline could be lengthened if Bogard and Butler eventually are charged criminally.

Bogard and Butler were relieved of their police powers five days after the shooting, meaning they were moved to paid desk duty and unable to carry a badge or gun for work purposes. With the new disciplinary charges, however, the officers could now go into a no-pay status while they await their evidentiary hearing.

According to the charges, Bogard was accused of violating Police Department policy by shooting Roman when it “was not necessary to prevent death or great bodily harm from an imminent threat.”

Bogard and Butler were also accused of failing to use de-escalation techniques when they tried to detain Roman. And they were accused of violating Police Department policy for use of their Taser during the incident.

Bogard was accused of violating policy for her use of chemical spray. She’s also accused of disobeying an order from a police supervisor by refusing to answer questions from disciplinary investigators about the shooting.

Bogard’s lawyer, Tim Grace, said his client held off on answering questions from the Civilian Office of Police Accountability, which conducted the disciplinary investigation into the incident, because she’s waiting to see whether she will be charged criminally. Grace criticized COPA for holding that decision against Bogard.

“Let the professional prosecutors ... do their job, and COPA can sit back and wait until afterwards,” Grace told the Tribune on Thursday night.

A COPA spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment.

Butler, meanwhile, was accused in the charges of telling Bogard to “shoot him,” referring to Roman, during the incident. The charges also alleged Butler “recklessly” grabbed Roman by his arm while Roman was standing along the edge of the train station platform, placing him in danger of falling onto the tracks. A lawyer for Butler could not immediately be reached for comment.

Roman filed a federal lawsuit after he was shot, alleging he was suffering from an anxiety attack when he was “harassed, chased, tackled, pepper-sprayed, tasered and shot twice” without justification.

“The video speaks for itself. It is clearly a step in the right direction to hold the officers accountable for the unjustified shooting of unarmed Ariel Roman,” Andrew M. Stroth, one of the attorneys for Roman in the lawsuit, told the Tribune on Thursday night. “Mr. Roman’s life has been changed forever based on the actions of these officers.”

In April of last year, COPA released more than a dozen video and audio clips from the shooting. While the cellphone video was seen on social media within hours of the shooting, the COPA footage provided closer views of the struggle between Roman and the two officers, as well as the scramble afterward as police tended to Roman and passengers squeezed by his body on the floor.

Bogard and Butler are shown on video struggling for several minutes to handcuff Roman on the platform after he was stopped for passing between two cars of a moving train. The partners press on top of Roman while repeatedly demanding that he stop resisting.

“Please, let me go,” Roman can be heard to say. “I didn’t do nothing to you. I didn’t do nothing to you.”

“Stop resisting,” one of the officers responds, repeating it nearly a dozen times.

That officer then yells, “Shoot him.”

At one point in the clip, Roman can be seen standing up and then bending down to pick up his coat. He appears to stagger toward a railing, and a shot rings out. Roman can be seen rushing up an escalator.

A second shot can then be heard.

Meanwhile, Roman received a subpoena to testify before a federal grand jury in January about the shooting, according to a copy of the subpoena reviewed by the Tribune.

Roman, who was badly wounded in the shooting, was also asked to provide his medical records documenting his recovery. Assistant U.S. Attorney Georgia Alexakis wrote in a letter attached to the subpoena that the records were being sought “pursuant to an official criminal investigation.”

It is rare for a Chicago police officer to face federal charges stemming from an on-duty shooting. The last was Marco Proano, who was charged with excessive force for firing 16 times into a moving vehicle filled with teens in December 2013. Proano was convicted by a jury and sentenced in 2017 to five years in prison.