When Chicago officer Marco Proano was in the police academy in 2006, recruits were trained that firing into a moving vehicle is reasonable only to protect the life of the officer or another individual, a Chicago Police Department sergeant testified in U.S. District Court Thursday.
The content of Proano’s training took center stage in Judge Gary Feinerman’s courtroom in U.S. District Court in Chicago on Thursday, where a jury will decide if Proano, 42, used excessive force when he fired 16 shots into a car full of black teenagers in December 2013, wounding two of them. Proano faces federal civil rights charges and could serve up to 10 years if convicted. He is the first Chicago police officer to face federal charges for an on-duty shooting in 15 years.
Four witnesses testified on Thursday, the last day of testimony. The government rested after prosecutors called to the stand the doctor who treated the wounded teenagers and two CPD training personnel before resting. The defense called just one witness before resting as well. Closing arguments are expected Monday.
The prosecution sought to establish that based on his training, Proano should not have elected to shoot in this circumstance. Defense attorney Daniel Herbert, representing Proano, sought to raise doubts about that conclusion.
Herbert asked the police witnesses to affirm Proano was trained that using deadly force could be appropriate in certain circumstances.
Sergeant Larry Snelling, who has trained Chicago police recruits in physical skills, including use of force, testified that in 2006, while Proano was in the academy, recruits were taught that the use of deadly force is a “last-resort measure.”
Snelling testified recruits were instructed not to fire into a crowd, not to fire at someone who is only a threat to himself, not to fire through windows or openings when the individuals inside aren’t clearly visible and not to shoot out tires to stop a vehicle. He also said that whether or not an officer’s use of force is appropriate is based on the “reasonableness standard” — whether another reasonable officer would commit the same actions under the same circumstances.
Under cross examination, Snelling testified that officers in 2006 were taught that traffic stops can be very dangerous situations. Herbert, himself a former Chicago police officer, asked Snelling if recruits were taught that “Every situation could turn deadly in a split second, correct?” Snelling responded, “We don’t exactly teach it that way,” and said the academy didn’t want recruits in a mindset of constant fear.
Herbert, who also represents Jason Van Dyke on murder charges in the shooting of Laquan McDonald, called only one witness in Proano’s case — Jaquon Grant.
Grant, 18, was riding in the Toyota’s passenger seat on the night of the shooting. Several witnesses testified Wednesday that Grant got his leg stuck in between the car and the door when he attempted to escape the vehicle while it was rolling forward after the driver had already fled. Grant also testified that getting his leg trapped had caused a “big blood clot” for which he was prescribed medicine at the hospital.
Asked by Herbert about his tattoos, Grant testified that he got the tattoos last year — well after the 2013 incident.
Herbert also tried twice to ask Grant whether he was shooting people earlier in the day with a replica gun that he had in the car, but Assistant U.S. Attorney Erika Csicsila quickly jumped up to make objections, which the judge sustained. The second time, after Herbert said “Did you shoot the BB gun at people?” Feinerman said, “That’s the last time a question like that will be asked in this courtroom.”