Fatal 2012 shooting of 15-year-old was 'unprovoked and unwarranted,' IPRA says

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Nearly five years after his death, Dakota Bright's mother wants charges filed against the Chicago Police Officer who shot and killed her son. (WLS)

Nearly five years after his death, Dakota Bright's mother wants charges filed against the Chicago Police Officer who shot and killed her son.

In a report issued Thursday night, the Independent Police Review Authority determined that the fatal shooting of a 15-year-old boy by a Chicago Police officer in 2012 was "unprovoked and unwarranted."

Since her son was shot and killed by police in November of 2012, Panzy Edwards has contacted IPRA almost daily. Her persistence to find the truth paid off with the police agency's unjustified finding. Edwards hopes it will lead toward criminal charges.

In a rare ruling, the Independent Police Review Authority has agreed. IPRA concluded the unnamed officer "used an unreasonable and excessive amount of force" when he shot Dakota Bright.

"They need to know he didn't have a gun, he was killed he did not have a gun," said Panzy Edwards. "For people to be able to know that and not just his family to believe that, that makes me more happy than anything."

Edwards hopes IPRA's decision is a sign that the tide for meaningful police investigations has turned. Between 2007 - 2015, IPRA only found two shootings out of hundreds unjustified. Since the Laquan McDonald case, five shootings, including Dakota's, have been ruled unjustified.

This is a good news for journalist Jamie Kalven who has investigated several police shootings.

"This trend matters, we should be encouraged. I know major efforts have been made within IPRA are being made to elevate the quality of investigations," said Jamie Kalven with the Invisible Institute.

For Panzy Edwards, her fight is far from over. She wants the officer fired and charged with murder. In November of 2012, 15-year-old Dakota was on his way to his grandmother's house when he was fatally shot in the back of the head from an officer 50 feet away. The boy was running from police who claimed he had a gun.

"If you were so scared that you want to kill someone - get off the force, you can't be that scared," said Edwards.

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It?s now up to Chicago's top cop to decide if an officer will be disciplined for killing 15-year-old Dakota Bright in 2012.

Dakota Bright was shot in the back of the head by an officer on Nov. 8, 2012, near 67th and Indiana.

In its report, IPRA said the officer - who was not named in the report - "used an unreasonable and excessive amount of force when he shot (Dakota)."

In June 2016, the City Council approved a $925,000 settlement to the family of Dakota, who was a freshman at Robeson High School when he was killed.

Dakota was at a friend's house about 3:30 p.m. that day when he left to walk to his grandmother's home nearby, his family told the Sun-Times shortly after his death.

Nearby officers were responding to a call of a burglary - which proved to be unfounded - when they saw the teen walking through an alley.

The officer who shot Dakota said he saw him holding a black handgun. The teen was trying to stick the gun in his waistband before running off, the officer told IPRA.

The officers chased after Dakota, ordering him to stop and drop the gun, but the teen kept running, jumping fences into at least one nearby backyard, according to the report.

Dakota turned back to look at police while trying to reach for his waistband when he was shot, the officer told IPRA. A weapon was recovered nearby, but not on Dakota's person, IPRA noted.

IPRA said that since Dakota didn't have a gun on him, it was "unlikely" that he would have made a gesture to suggest otherwise.

Three other officers at the scene of the shooting said they saw the teen holding his side while running away - something often done by those who are running and do not want to drop a firearm.

Citing detective files it had reviewed, IPRA noted that there were at least five photos on Dakota's Facebook page of the teen posing with a handgun.

IPRA, though, cast doubt on the legitimacy of the other officers' accounts, saying they had ample time to collude.

"These officers were not only colleagues who frequently worked together, they were friends that socialized together," IPRA wrote.

"They had ample opportunity to discuss the events among themselves at the scene of the incident as well as on at least three other occasions," investigators said. "Even if there was no collusion regarding how the officers would ultimately describe the events in question, these multiple discussions could easily have influenced each officer's recollection of what happened."

"He wasn't the monster they're making him out to be," said his mother, Panzy Edwards. She said she doesn't believe the police account of what happened. "No matter what he did or how he did it, they shouldn't have killed him."

He loved to play basketball and video games. His favorite song was "Neva End," by the rapper Future.

"He was an average teenager," said his aunt, Tianne Dakota. "He wasn't no violent person."

"These boys in blue, this gang right here, they covering up for each other. Ain't nothing - nobody - ain't nothing we can do out here," Edwards said in 2015.

As for criminal charges, the Cook County State's Attorney's Office did not have a comment, neither did the police department. It is up to Supt. Eddie Johnson to decide whether he agrees with IPRA's findings. If he does and recommends a penalty for the officer, the case will then go to the Chicago Police Board.

For legal reasons, the officer cannot be named.

Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report

Related Topics:
fatal shootingteen killedpolice-involved shootingchicago shootingChicagoPark Manor

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