Man 'awestruck' by $44.7 million verdict in police shooting; Chicago to appeal

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Michael LaPorta was awarded $44.7 million after a jury determined a Chicago police officer shot him in the head after a night of heavy drinking.

The attorneys for LaPorta called it the largest verdict ever reached in Chicago for a police misconduct lawsuit. LaPorta was awestruck.

The city is firing back and plans to appeal.

On Friday, the jury forewoman and Michael LaPorta spoke about it.

LaPorta is disabled after he was shot in the back of the head. In 2010, LaPorta was at his friend's home, off-duty Chicago Officer Patrick Kelly, when the officer's gun went off.

Kelly claimed LaPorta tried to commit suicide, but the jury didn't buy it.

According to the jury forewoman, nine of the 10 jurors agreed there was a code of silence.

"It exists and it was very prevalent in the case. We saw a lot of it on the stand, a lot of cover up - we saw it there," said Michelle Fifer, the jury forewoman.

That is the point LaPorta's attorney wanted to address - the code of silence, especially when investigating fellow officers.

"We wanted the truth to come out. We brought the truth out, and that jury heard it and they sent the message loud and clear - they want it to stop," said Antonio Romanucci, LaPorta's attorney.

Bill McCaffrey from the city's law department responded on Friday: "We are disappointed in the jury's verdict, and, as we argued in this case, taxpayers should not be responsible for an off-duty officer's purely private actions."

The jury, however, did not see this as a private issue, especially when Officer Kelly called 911.

"You represent the police because when you made the call - you said 'I'm a police officer.' So you knew the weight of what you do on your position because why would you need to tell someone you are a police officer if it was private," said Fifer.

Meantime, the LaPorta family has renewed hope after the verdict.

"Hope that the code of silence has been broken. And hope for the people of Chicago for a safer community. This has been a long, hard fight," said Patti LaPorta, mother and caretaker of Michael LaPorta.

Fifer said it took the jury about 20 minutes to determine that Officer Kelly was responsible for shooting LaPorta.

Thursday's verdict for LaPorta followed a federal civil trial. Jurors rejected Officer Kelly's assertion that LaPorta grabbed Kelly's service weapon and shot himself in a suicide attempt. The two were friends.

LaPorta uses a wheelchair and requires 24-hour care. LaPorta's lawyers argued the city was responsible because its police department retained Kelly despite multiple allegations about his aggressive behavior before the 2010 shooting.

Chicago police said Friday that Kelly is stripped of his police powers, pending an internal disciplinary investigation.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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