Chicago officer indicted on civil rights charges
Marco Proano was indicted on two counts of deprivation of rights after he allegedly used unreasonable force during a 2013 traffic stop
By Don Babwin and Jason Keyser
CHICAGO — A Chicago police officer who was videotaped firing shots that injured two black teenagers inside a car was indicted on federal civil rights charges.
U.S. Attorney Zachary Fardon said in a statement that 41-year-old Marco Proano was indicted Thursday on two counts of deprivation of rights after he allegedly used unreasonable force while on duty on Dec. 22, 2013. Each count of the indictment is punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
The release doesn't detail the allegations, but police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said that the indictment stems from an incident captured on dashboard camera video that was released last year by a retired judge who had handled a criminal trial involving one of the teenagers.
The video shows the officer firing his handgun multiple times — more than a dozen, according to an attorney for the families that filed a lawsuit — into a car occupied by the two teenagers, who posed no apparent theat. The car had been pulled over for speeding.
Police said at the time that the officer opened fire out of fear that the "occupants who had been in the vehicle were in a position to sustain great bodily harm." Police also said that a weapon was recovered at the scene. But a family attorney said a pellet gun was recovered and it was never visible or brandished at the officers.
The shooting prompted a lawsuit filed by mothers of three teens in the car, and the city agreed to settle the case for $360,000. One of the three teens wasn't shot but was taken to the ground by an officer and his right eye was injured, according to the lawsuit. The city and the Chicago Police Department secured from a judge a protective order to keep the video from being released by any of the parties in the civil case.
But that order did not prohibit former Cook County Judge Andrew Berman, who had presided over the trial of one of the teens, from releasing the video. After the trial in which the teenager was acquitted of possession of a stolen vehicle and a misdemeanor criminal trespass to a vehicle, Berman released the video.
He turned the video over to the Chicago Reporter magazine in June 2015, telling The Associated Press at the time that he did so because the video "just showed a reckless and callous disregard for human life by somebody who is sworn to serve and protect."
The indictment marks the first time, according to a Chicago Tribune analysis of police records, that federal law enforcement has brought criminal civil rights charges against any Chicago police officer in a total of 702 shootings over the past 15 years.
The indictment is also the latest blow to a police force that has been under intense scrutiny since last November's release of a video showing white police officer Jason Van Dyke fatally shooting black teenager Laquan McDonald in 2014.
Since then, Van Dyke has been charged with first-degree murder, the U.S. Justice Department has launched an investigation into the practices of the department, and a county grand jury is considering whether officers at the scene lied in their reports as part of a cover up.
Proano is represented by Daniel Herbert, the attorney representing Van Dyke. Through a publicist, he declined to comment. Fraternal Order of Police President Dean Angelo also declined comment.
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