By Justin Kmitch, Chicago Daily Herald (Illinois)
Bensenville police officer Don Purley was found guilty Wednesday of three misconduct charges stemming from a March 17, 2004, incident in which he shot and injured an unarmed resident.
Members of the Bensenville Police and Fire Commission unanimously found Purley guilty of firing his weapon without reasonable belief his life was in danger, reckless use of his weapon and incompetence.
A penalty hearing has been set for 7 p.m. Monday at Bensenville village hall, 12 S. Center St. Police Chief Frank Kosman has recommended a 30-day unpaid suspension, but the commission can decide any punishment from a written reprimand to termination.
Bensenville Village Manager and interim Public Safety Director Jim Johnson said the village holds no ill will toward Purley but believes the commission made the appropriate decision.
"We think they made the appropriate decision based on our investigation and evidence we presented," Johnson said. "It's now up to them to decide the severity of the punishment."
Purley's attorney, Tom Polacek of Joliet-based Schenk law firm, said he disagrees with the decision and will lobby strongly for the lightest possible punishment for Purley.
"This is a really terrible situation, but my opinion is that officer Purley acted reasonably and does not deserve to be punished. Unfortunately it was a bad outcome," Polacek said.
"The board has made their decision and we're going to fight to the end of it, and then a decision will be made as to whether there will be an appeal to the circuit court. We'll wait and see what they do during the penalty phase before we make that decision."
Purley was placed on paid leave for two months after the March 17, 2004, shooting and returned to desk duty in mid-May, manning the police department switchboard. He served the department in that capacity until late-February when he returned to patrols.
Purley has said that, on the night of the shooting, he'd responded to a suspicious noise and vehicle call at about 11 p.m. outside an apartment building at 12 E. Belmont St. when he saw a man running toward him with an unidentified object in his hand. When the man didn't respond to Purley's direction to stop, Purley said he feared for his life and fired two shots, one missing the man and the other hit the man in the calf.
The man turned out to be Ted Wronkiewicz, who owns the apartment building and was outside investigating the noise that prompted his wife to call 911 moments earlier. The item in Wronkiewicz's hand, according to earlier police accounts, was a two-way radio he was using to talk to his wife while he searched outside.
Village attorney Jeff Fowler argued Purley violated police standards when he fired at Wronkiewicz with no reasonable fear for his life and safety, and said neither of two varying accounts Purley gave as to how he shot the gun violated firing procedures taught to officers during firearms training.
Wronkiewicz was shot in the calf; Purley called for an ambulance as soon as he realized Wronkiewicz had been hit and was no longer a threat.
Purley said he took advantage of a psychological counseling program offered to him by the department immediately after the incident and that he'd agonized over what happened.
Wronkiewicz, a former part-time Bensenville Park District employee who has helped organize Fourth of July celebrations in town, has declined interview requests on the shooting. Wronkiewicz attended the hearing, but declined to comment on the commission's decision.