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Head of Chicago Police oversight agency wants officers in Dexter Reed shooting stripped of powers

Head of Chicago Police union says Dexter Reed fired 11 times at officers
Head of Chicago Police union says Dexter Reed fired 11 times at officers 02:54

CHICAGO (CBS) -- On Tuesday, disturbing videos from body-worn police cameras showed the shootout with officers that left 26-year-old Dexter Reed dead last month.

While the Civilian Office of Police Accountability believes Reed shot at officers first – and an officer was struck – the video showed officers going on to shoot at Reed 96 times in 41 seconds.

COPA Chief Administrator Andrea Kersten is questioning some of the officers on the scene that night of March 21 in the 3800 block of West Ferdinand Street in Humboldt Park. To begin with, she is questioning the traffic stop and whether the officers are being truthful.

Kersten called for those officers' police powers to be stripped for now. This would mean they would not be allowed to carry their badges or weapons.

The central question is what led a team of five plain-clothed tactical officers to circle Reed's car in the first place. The COPA boss said some of what the Chicago Police Department told her investigators doesn't add up.

"Chicagoans should look at this video release that they saw yesterday and be dismayed by the set of circumstances that officers found themselves in and that Dexter Reed ultimately lost his life during," Kersten said.

In the tense seconds before gunfire, police zeroed in on the tinted windows of Reed's truck. "Roll it down!" they said since it was hard to see through.

COPA admin questions Chicago Police officers' account of Dexter Reed shooting 03:16

However, COPA investigators say the dark window makes it hard to believe the officers' rationale for pulling Reed over. The officers told COPA it was because they saw, through the window, that Reed wasn't wearing a seat belt.

In a letter issued April 1 to police Supt. Larry Snelling, Kersten wrote: "Specifically, COPA is uncertain how the officers could have seen this seat belt violation given their location relative to [the] vehicle and the dark tints on vehicle windows," Kersten wrote in the letter on April 1. "This evidence raises serious concerns about the validity of the traffic stop that led to the officers' encounter [Reed]."

COPA, again, believes Reed fired first in the shootout that ended in his death — and a gunshot wound for one of the five officers involved. 

A month before the shootout that killed Reed, COPA began an investigation into this same five-person plain-clothed tactical team — after a different driver said they were wrongly pulled over for a seatbelt violation.

COPA head discusses discrepancies in Dexter Reed shooting investigation 03:25

Tye: "Is there a pattern here where officers are using the cover of a traffic stop to achieve other means or ends?"

Kersten: "I think we're too early in the stages of this investigation to make those kinds of statements. But the public should be assured that we are looking at all this information for just that purpose."

Given the tinting question and the multiple investigations into the tactical team, Kersten has asked Snelling to "relieve [the officers] of police powers" pending the outcome of the investigation. 

Tye: "Those are some pretty strong words."

Kersten: "Yes, they are, and I don't make those recommendations or requests lightly."

Between the videos already released, interviews, and analysis conducted the night of Reed's shooting, COPA is hoping to get a clearer picture of why a tactical team of five engaged with Reed 20 nights ago.

"There may be other interviews that have to occur as well to understand what brought the officers to performing traffic stops as tactical officers in the 11th District," said Kersten.

Kersten's team continues to investigate whether a puzzle piece is missing, which is the question of what led the tactical unit to turn their attention to Reed, a driver all parties believe was unknown to the officers ahead of time. 

Tye: "How does your office sort of get at what's missing here?"

Kersten: "I think that's precisely what the investigation is for. That's exactly what we seek to sort of unravel — whether there is missing information, and if so, what?"

While COPA has raised doubts about the tactical team stopping Reed for a seatbelt violation, Fraternal Order of Police President John Catanzara said there was still a justification for the stop.

"Everybody talks about how dark the tint was. Well then, the tint was illegal," he said. "That would be a justification for the stop also."

Further, Catanzara also said none of this negates the fact that Reed fired first – more than once. He said Reed fired not one, but 11 rounds.

"The reality is. Mr. Reed fired not one time - almost killing an officer and intending to kill an officer," Catanzara said. "He fired 11 rounds. He continued to fire at the officers while they were firing those 90 rounds. That's just the facts of the case."

Kersten said she does not believe the officers have been stripped of their police powers pending the investigation but encouraged CBS 2 to ask Supt. Snelling. They are, however, on 30-day paid leave.

Meanwhile, some in the community who came out Wednesday night to an 11th (Harrison) District Council meeting also wanted consequences for the officers involved.

"They're never held accountable for their actions," one woman said. "How do you ask young teenage boys to respect police when they can just kill them and walk away scot-free?"

But Catanzara said removing police powers is beyond far-reaching.

"It is almost an automatic presumption of some level of guilt, whether they want to admit it or not," Catanzara said. "It's a knee-jerk reaction that COPA does far too many times, needlessly - just because they can."

Supt. Snelling's office declined an interview request but sent a statement saying: "This shooting remains under investigation by COPA… with the full cooperation of the Chicago Police Department. We cannot make a determination on this shooting until all the facts are known and this investigation has concluded." 

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