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Video shows Chicago officer shooting subway rider in back

CHICAGO – Extended security and body-cam video released Tuesday shows Chicago police shooting an unarmed short-order cook at the foot of a subway escalator and then again with his back turned to officers after they tried to stop him for violating a city ordinance by walking from one train car to another.

The Chicago Transit Authority and police body-cam videos for the first time provide a detailed look at how the incident unfolded from the time Ariel Roman used a subway’s gangway doors to when he was shot for the second time after scrambling away from officers up the escalator. Roman, 33, survived but was severely injured.

In the most striking video segment from a CTA camera, Roman is seen running up to the top of the escalator in the busy red line station holding a coat in his right hand. With the pursuing officers about 10 feet behind him, and with his back still turned to them, a female officer shoots him and he immediately slams face first onto the floor. The officer reholsters her gun and appears to handcuff him.

The Feb. 28 shooting raised questions about whether the Chicago Police Department is complying with a court-monitored reform plan that, among other things, seeks to remedy decades of excessive force by the 13,000-officer force through training that stresses conflict de-escalation.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot characterized the shooting at the time as "extremely disturbing” based on a short bystander video. She also said she wanted a full picture of what happened.

One of Roman’s Chicago lawyers, Andrew M. Stroth, said Tuesday the shooting and disturbing video posed a test for Lightfoot and new Police Superintendent David Brown, who comes from Dallas with a reputation as a reformer.

“While managing the COVID pandemic is the top priority, Mayor Lightfoot must address another crisis in Chicago and that is the use of excessive and lethal force by Chicago police officers," he said.

The new videos were released by the Civilian Office of Police Accountability, the city agency that investigates alleged misconduct by police.

The accountability agency said their release was consistent with a transparency policy, one implemented in the wake of 2015 protests after the city delayed release of video for over a year that showed a white officer shooting black teenager Laquan McDonald 16 times as he walked away from police with a folded knife.

The officers in Roman’s case have been stripped of their police powers pending the outcome of an investigation. They could face criminal charges if the shooting is deemed unjustified.

Minutes before the shooting, video shows a seemingly relaxed Roman walking from one subway car to another, while listening to earphones. One officer follows him into the other car and approaches him as he pulls off his earphones to listen. Seconds later, he steps off the train at the Grand station stop.

Off the train, officers speak to Roman briefly before he seems to bolt for the escalator, with the officers on his heels. The bystander video released earlier shows officers tackling Roman, pepper spraying and Tasering him as he tries to wriggle from their grasp. In the bystander video, Roman can be heard saying, “I did nothing to you.” A male officer on his back keeps yelling, “Stop resisting!”

Moments later, as Roman stands, he is shot in the stomach and he then scurries up the stairs. He is shot a second time in the lower back when he gets to the top.

Lawyers for Roman say he clearly wasn’t armed when the female officer shot him the first time, nor when the injured Roman scrambled up the escalator with his back turned. The first bullet damaged his small intestine and bladder, and the second one entered his buttocks and lodged near a sciatic nerve, his lawyers say.

Two days after Roman was shot, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx’s office dropped resisting arrest and criminal narcotics charges against Roman at the request of then-interim Police Superintendent Charlie Beck. Roman in March sued the city and the two officers for unspecified damages.

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Follow Michael Tarm on Twitter at http://twitter.com/mtarm