Chicago shooting: Judge rules officer, sergeant charged after unarmed man shot in Pilsen not guilty

Leah Hope Image
Thursday, September 28, 2023
CPD officer, sergeant charged in Pilsen shooting not guilty: judge
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A Chicago police officer and sergeant charged in a Pilsen shooting last year have been found not guilty, a judge said.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A Chicago police sergeant and officer charged in a Pilsen shooting last July are not guilty on all counts, a judge said Thursday.

The verdict was met with cheers and applause from a courtroom packed with Chicago police officers.

"They were doing what they were trained to do, paid observers who saw something suspicious, that was corroborated by another city employee, who's on that street four times a week, and said something didn't look right to him either," Fraternal Order of Police President John Catanzara said.

Before court, Officer Ruben Reynoso and Sgt. Christopher Liakopoulos went into court without comment, and they did not comment on the way out, after a Cook County judge dropped the charges against the two for an incident last summer where two people were injured.

"These guys have been through 13 months of absolute agony, being charged with serious crimes, crimes that carry mandatory minimums of six years in prison, up to 30," said Tim Grace, Liakopoulos' attorney. "Thanks to the police officers that were in the courtroom and listened to the verdict; those guys weren't standing behind him.

They were standing next to him."

"He's relieved. It's been hanging over his head the whole time, and he just wants to get back to his family and back to his job," said Brian Sexton, Reynoso's attorney.

Videos were among the evidence that showed Miguel Medina raising his hands before being shot.

"Both, Mr. Medina and our office are very disappointed," said Greg Kulis, who is representing Medina in a civil lawsuit against the officers.

"This is case where two police officers shot an unarmed man and were charged criminally. The last time a conviction took place against a police officer was when there was a jury," he said.

Prosecutors argued the officers lied, saying they were fired upon first, but, in the video, that was not the case, and that the officers broke the law firing on Medina, who was injured.

The judge disagreed, saying he did not find Medina to be credible.

"We didn't bring these charges lightly," Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx said.

Foxx said it was the officers who were not credible, with discrepancies in their telling the order of events. Nonetheless, she said respects the verdict, and she was obligated to charge the officers.

"When we don't bring the charge, when we think the evidence is sufficient, that flies in the face of the our justice system, and that's why we brought those charges," Foxx said.

Foxx announced felony charges against the Chicago police sergeant and officer in September 2022 for the shooting in Pilsen in July of last year.

The pair were accused of abusing their authority.

Reynoso and Liakopoulos both faced three felonies, including aggravated battery of a firearm, aggravated discharge of a firearm and official misconduct, Foxx said.

Chicago police said the officers, who were assigned to the Major Accidents Investigations Unit, were heading to the academy for police training just before 7 a.m. in the 1000-block of West 18th Street when they saw four individuals wearing masks loitering in front of a closed business. That's when CPD said one of the individuals displayed a gun, leading to an exchange of gunfire.

However, Foxx's office said video evidence shows police officers firing first, which contradicts officers' statements that they were fired upon first. Foxx said there were no body-worn cameras during the incident.

"We cannot ignore or stand by acts of unprovoked violence, even at the hands of those who are sworn to serve and protect our community," Foxx said.

WATCH: Foxx announces charges for CPD cop, sergeant in Pilsen shooting

Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx announced felony charges against a CPD sergeant and officer for a shooting in Pilsen in July.

No officers were injured, but two men were shot, including an apparent innocent bystander who was grazed in the leg. One individual was taken to a hospital in serious condition.

Medina, a man who was shot at by police, hired an attorney and filed a three-count complaint against Liakopoulos. Medina was not committing any crimes or breaking any laws leading up to the shooting, Foxx said.

"The victim who was shot and injured in this incident was not in possession of a weapon, not did fire a weapon at these two officers," Foxx said.

Medina and an armed juvenile walked toward the officer's unmarked police car. Prosecutors say the juvenile ran away from the car, but Medina continued walking to the officer's vehicle displaying both open hands to Liakopoulos and Reynosa. The officers opened fire, hitting Medina several times.

"As the victim and juvenile approached the vehicle, the juvenile held onto the firearm," Assistant Cook Co. State's Attorney Alyssa Janicki said. "The victim was unarmed and held a cell phone and wine bottle in one hand and his other was empty."

"As a result or the officer's actions, he was shot three times: twice in the back, one bullet approximately a few inches from the spine," said Gregory Kiki, Medina's attorney.

The juvenile who was initially with Medina returned fire. The officer's defense attorneys told a judge it's unclear who shot first and they claim the juvenile pointed a gun at Liakopoulos and Reynoso. Foxx said that is not what the video shows.

READ MORE: Chicago police shooting: 2 wounded, including bystander, in Pilsen; 3 in custody, CPD says

On the day of the shooting, CPD Supt. David Brown said the incident was a stark reminder of the dangers officers face on the job.

"They were shot at when they were seated in the car. They get out of the car, and they run toward a person shooting at them, trying to kill them," Brown said at the time.

WATCH: CPD give updated on Pilsen police-involved shooting

So far this year, 36 Chicago police officers have been shot or shot at, CPD Superintendent David Brown said Friday.

A woman walking to work in the area said she saw police shoot a man. She also said she didn't see any of the suspects in the area.

"No, just the cops. At first, I thought it was gang-related, but no. He was by himself... I didn't see anyone waving a gun. He was asking for help: He's like 'help me, help me... this is what y'all do, officer? I don't have nothing on me; I'm right here, man.' And he just had his little hands up in the air, asking for help," said the woman, who did not want to be identified.

Police said three people were arrested, but the man who allegedly fired at police fled the scene, and it's unclear if he was ever taken into custody.

The officers have been relieved of their police powers, but they hope to be reinstated at CPD.

The Civilian Office of Police Accountability finished its investigation, and made a recommendation to CPD.

CPD has not yet responded, so the COPA recommendation has not been made public.

The teenager who was believed to have exchanged gunfire with the officers was neither injured nor charged in the incident.