Testimony begins in trial of Chicago cop who fired gun into carload of teens

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A Chicago teenager testified Wednesday that after Chicago police Officer Marco Proano fired multiple times into a sedan in 2013, the officer told him “I was lucky he ain’t killed me, and he was gonna kick me in my face.”

The testimony from Delquantis Bates, 19, one of two teenagers in the vehicle who were injured when the shooting occurred, came during the first day of Proano’s trial on federal civil rights charges in U.S. District Court in Chicago.

It is the first trial in 15 years in which a Chicago police officer faces federal charges for an on-duty shooting. The charges came amidst a U.S. Justice Department investigation into the pattern and practices of the Chicago police department. The incident was captured on dashcam video.

At the close of the hearing and after the jury had departed for the day, Proano’s attorney unsuccessfully argued that Assistant U.S. Attorneys Georgia Alexakis and Erika Csicsila acted in “bad faith” when they accused him during jury selection of trying to strike a potential juror based on his race, accusing him of “the worst thing you can accuse an attorney of.”

Judge Gary Feinerman had agreed earlier this week that Herbert had improperly used a racial basis to strike one potential juror, stating from the bench that he noticed the defense attorneys had listed the only four black juror candidates as the first four candidates they wanted to exclude.  While Feinerman stated it was not inherently improper to end up with an all-white jury, he said that the defense had no “race neutral” basis to dismiss one of the candidates.

That juror is the sole African American on the jury.

Herbert, a former Chicago police officer and Cook County prosecutor, has represented police officers in several high-profile cases. He currently represents Jason Van Dyke, who faces murder charges for shooting teenager Laquan MacDonald 16 times.

During testimony on Wednesday, the government called several witnesses, including Bates, another teenager who was in the car, and an officer who was on the scene. Officer Ken Flaherty testified that he pursued the Toyota for a traffic violation. All three testified that the car eventually got stuck between his squad car and a parked car on LaSalle Street. One of the teenagers, Jaquon Grant, became stuck in the door when his legs were jammed between the Toyota and the initial squad car. Kevon Brown also became stuck above the roof of the vehicle when the rear driver’s side of the car wedged him between the Toyota and the parked car.

According to testimony from several witnesses, Bates lunged from the backseat onto the console of the Toyota, put the car in reverse and hit the gas pedal with his hands. The car reversed. As this happened, the squad car dashboard camera shows Proano point his gun at the Toyota and empty the magazine.

“I got into the back seat with my head down and balled up,” testified Bates, who was 15 at the time. “I was trying to get away from the gunshots.”

After Proano fired into the car, Bates testified that Proano and other officers helped Bates onto the ground, where Proano told Bates that he was lucky that he hadn’t killed him.

Injustice Watch interns Mari Cohen, Rachel Frazin, Ashley Hackett, Jake Kleinbaum, David North and Ivan Ost contributed to this report. 

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