A Chicago policeman will face zero disciplinary action after the Chicago Police Board voted 5-3 Thursday to clear the cop of all wrongdoing in the fatal shooting of an unarmed Black teen six years ago.
According to the Chicago Tribune, the decision comes nearly a year after the Independent Police Review Authority board took the rare step in finding officer Brandon Ternand at fault and suggested he be fired, calling the shooting of Dakota Bright “unprovoked and unwarranted.” The 15-year-old was unarmed when Ternand shot him in the back of the head, although officers recovered a .22 caliber handgun in a front yard where authorities say the chase began.
The police board credited the officer’s account of the November 2012 shooting as “credible and persuasive,” despite inconsistencies pointed out by the city’s police watchdog agency. The board majority also said it relied heavily on Ternand’s “reputation for honesty,” based on character witness testimony from his wife, his former partner, fellow officers at the scene of the shooting, and Deputy Chief Kevin Johnson.
Sharp division among board members was apparent in the controversial case, as detailed in a 21-page decision issued Thursday night. In clearing Ternand of fault, five board members determined the officer was justified in shooting Bright from roughly 50 feet away, while the remaining three voted for Ternand’s termination.
The controversial shooting sparked protests across community, as locals demanded justice in the young man’s death. Bright’s relatives said he was walking to his grandmother’s house at the time of the shooting.
“It is undisputed that this shooting was a terrible tragedy — only made more so by the fact Mr. Bright was 15 years old, and that (Officer Ternand) has expressed sincere sympathy for the death of Mr. Bright,” the five wrote in their opinion.
Bright’s family filed a suit against the city over the shooting, and in 2016 reached a settlement for $925,000, CBS Chicago reported.
Ternand testified earlier this year that he opened fire on the teen when he saw Bright turn his head to the right and reach his hand toward his left pocket as if he were going to pull a gun. The dissenting board members questioned this, however, asking how the teen could’ve possibly turned his head the moment before he was shot when an autopsy determined the bullet struck Bright “in the midline of the back of his head.”
The three dissenters also pointed to testimony from an expert in police use of force and questioned why the teen would be reaching for his left side when police found nothing in that pocket.
The deadly encounter unfolded Nov. 8, 2012, when Ternand and his partner, Officer Victor Razo, responded to reports of a burglary in the city’s Park Manor neighborhood, according to the Chicago Tribune. The call turned out to be a false alarm. However, officers said they spotted a teen, later identified as Bright, duck into an alley with a gun in his hand.
Bright took off running, according to police records, scaling several fences as he raced through residents’ backyards. That’s when Ternand, who’s white, fired a single shot from about 50 feet away, killing the Black teen.
An earlier report by the Chicago Tribune reveled that wasn’t the first time Ternand has fired his weapon. The newspaper cited records showing the 11-year veteran opened fire while on duty on at least two occasions in addition to Bright’s shooting and has been named in half a dozen lawsuits, including one filed by Bright’s mother.
Additionally, Ternand was among the top dozen officers for the most complaints within the 12,000-strong police force after he had a whopping 23 complaints, ranging from excessive force to illegal searches, brought against him between mid-December 2010 and mid-December 2014.
Thursday’s decision means Ternand will keep his job with no consequences. According to CBS Chicago, he’ll soon be reinstated active duty and will receive back pay after almost a year of being suspended with no compensation.
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