CHICAGO (CBS) -- A Chicago police officer was acquitted on Tuesday of felony charges in the shooting of an unarmed man at a CTA Red Line stop in 2020.
Following a bench trial, Cook County Judge Joseph Claps found Officer Melvina Bogard, 33, not guilty of aggravated battery and official misconduct in the shooting of Ariel Roman on Feb. 28, 2020.
In announcing his verdict Tuesday morning, Claps said Roman "has zero credibility." The judge spent about 20 minutes explaining his not-guilty decision.
After the verdict, Bogard's defense attorney, Tim Grace, also said Roman practically committed perjury when he testified at trial.
"It's obviously, for Officer Bogard, a pretty good day, personally for her, but it kind of makes us to look a little introspective about where we are. I don't know how we've come to a point in our society where citizens can believe they do not have to follow the lawful orders of police officers and law enforcement," Grace said.
Chicago Police Supt. David Brown in April 2021 moved to fire Bogard and her partner, Officer Bernard Butler, for violating multiple department policies, calling the shooting of Roman unnecessary.
However, Grace said Bogard was acting in self-defense after Roman had struggled with her and her partner for more than eight minutes after they.
****WARNING: Video contains graphic content and explicit language****
Grace said Roman ignored repeated commands from Bogard and Butler to stop resisting, and even bent a pair of steel handcuffs as the officers were trying to subdue him. Grace also said Bogard and Butler tried to use mechanical holds, pepper spray, and their Tasers to subdue Roman during the struggle, but all of those efforts were ineffective.
"Ariel Roman, he dictated how this encounter happened. He's the one that ignored over 30 verbal commands to stop resisting, show us your hands, let go of the Taser," Grace said.
Meantime, some of the pepper spray got onto Butler, which Grace said left him unable to help Bogard in the attempt to arrest Roman.
"Officer Bogard was left in a position where she had to make a decision," he said. "The partner was out of the fight. Roman outweighs her by 100 pounds, and probably about a foot-and-a-half. She had to make a decision. She could have ran. She had another option. She could have ran away, but that's not her job. That's not what we pay her to do."
However, Roman's attorneys said Roman did not pose a deadly threat to the officers.
"Obviously, the family is very disappointed over this ruling, but in essence we're not very surprised. City of Chicago, business as usual; police officers do things, a slap on the hand, sometimes an indictment, but at the end of the day, the police officers continue on in their actions," attorney Gregory Kulis said.
Kulis also questioned why Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx charged Bogard only in connection with the first of the two shots she was fired, and not the second shot to Roman's back.
"Anybody that looks at this video, I believe would agree that someone who is turning and running for his life, with no weapon, no challenge to the officer, just trying to save his life, and an officer chases him down and shoots him in the back, and Kim Foxx ignores that, the court ignores that, and our system pretends that that never occurred," Kulis said. "According to the judge, they could not get him initially in handcuffs. So I guess it's okay to just go shoot someone. It's okay to try to kill a man who you're trained, with a fellow officer, to try to take under control. And I guess it's okay to shoot him in the stomach, and then shoot him again in the back."
Attorney Gloria Rodriguez argued the video clearly shows Roman was simply trying to get away from officers after he was shot the first time, and started running up an escalator.
"You have to remember, if you get shot, what's going through your mind is 'I need to be safe,' and that's exactly what the video shows. And if any of you have any doubt about that, watch the tape," she said.
Roman's attorneys said, while he has acknowledged moving between the cars of a CTA train -- which is a violation of city ordinance -- he did not commit any crime that would have warranted him being arrested, and was not armed or otherwise a threat to police or anyone else.
"What happened today was a failure of our criminal justice system," said attorney Andrew Stroth.
Chicago Police Supt. Brown also has argued the shooting was unnecessary, because Roman posed no deadly threat to Bogard or anybody else. In moving to fire Bogard and Butler last year, Brown said they failed to use approved de-escalation techniques to arrest Roman before using deadly force.
Videos from several surveillance cameras on the train show Bogard and Butler talking to Roman on the train, before he walks away from them. Moments later, Bogard follows him and motions to him to get off the train. The surveillance videos do not have sound, so it's not clear exactly what they said to each other.
Another surveillance video from outside the train shows both officers talking to Roman before he tries to walk away, and one of the officers grabs his arm. A struggle ensues, and the officers tackle Roman to the ground, mostly out of sight of that camera.
A passenger's cell phone video of the struggle shows the officers struggling to hold down Roman and trying to handcuff him.
In the video, an officer is heard yelling for Roman to "stop resisting" – something the officer screamed more than 10 times. The officers then both deploy their Tasers. But Roman breaks free, staggers to his feet and appears to wipe his face, apparently from pepper spray. Bogard then steps back and pulls her weapon and yells, "Sir, put your f***ing hands down!" as Butler yells, "Shoot him!"
Seconds later, Bogard draws her weapon and shoots Roman. After that first shot, Roman runs up the escalator, the officers give chase, and a second shot rings out off camera. Various surveillance cameras from the busy Grand Avenue station in River North show passengers fleeing after the shots ring out, and other police officers arriving on scene.
In April 2021, Brown moved to fire Bogard and Butler, arguing Bogard violated department rules for deploying her Taser weapon and then shooting Roman, which Brown said was unnecessary because Roman posed no deadly threat to her or anybody else. Brown also accused Butler of violating department rules in the use of his Taser weapon and by failing to use approved de-escalation techniques to arrest Roman, Brown said. Butler was also cited for placing Roman in danger for grabbing him on the edge of the subway platform.
Brown concluded that both officers should be fired. That final decision is up to the Chicago Police Board, which will hold hearings on the case.
Grace said he's confident the Police Board will clear Bogard and allow her to go back to work as an officer in light of the verdict in the criminal case.
There is also still a federal case pending.
Roman was charged with resisting arrest after the incident, but the charges later were dropped.
Roman was taken to Northwestern Memorial Hospital after the shooting, and underwent at least two surgeries. Rodriguez said the gunshot wound to his stomach destroyed the tissue connecting his bladder to his small intestine, and the bullet that hit him in the buttocks is still lodged in his back, and can't be removed, because it's too close to his sciatic nerve.
Roman has sued the city and the officers for excessive force. The lawsuit seeks unspecified financial damages. Roman's attorneys said the city also needs to make sure all officers are properly trained, noting Bogard opened fire in a busy mass transit station, where an innocent bystander could have been shot over an incident that didn't require deadly force to begin with.
Roman's attorneys said they're confident they will get a measure of justice for him through that lawsuit.
Rodriguez said Roman still faces an uphill battle in his recovery from his wounds. Rodriguez said Roman recently had a colostomy bag removed, but is facing another surgery due to complications caused by that colostomy bag. She also said the bullet from the second shot likely will remain lodged in Roman's body for the rest of his life, causing discomfort.
"Emotionally, he's still suffering, and he's very much traumatized by what the police did to him, and it's a second victimization when you consider that the full story never got to trial," she said.
We caught up with Bogard leaving the courthouse — but she declined to make any statement before getting into her car and driving away.
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