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Chicago mayor fires top cop and says he misled public about car incident

Chicago police superintendent fired
Chicago police superintendent fired 02:08

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot fired Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson on Monday, saying her decision was based on his "ethical lapses." Lightfoot said she decided to fire the superintendent, who announced last month he was retiring, after reviewing a Chicago inspector general's report on its investigation into an October incident in which Johnson was found asleep behind the wheel of his SUV.

Lightfoot didn't provide additional details about the findings of the report, which has not yet been made public, CBS Chicago reports. In a statement, she said Johnson made misleading statements to her and the public about the incident.

Johnson announced in November that he would retire at the end of the year after more than 30 years with the department. Lightfoot said that had she known the details of the investigation at the time, she would not have held a press conference to announce Johnson's retirement and celebrate his career, CBS Chicago reports.

"Mr. Johnson was intentionally dishonest with me and communicated a narrative replete with false statements regarding material aspects of the incident that happened in the early morning hours of October 17," Lightfoot said in a statement. "Had I known all the facts at the time, I would have relieved him of his duties as superintendent then and there."

"Perhaps worst of all, Mr. Johnson has misled the people of Chicago," the statement continued.

Chicago's top cop Eddie Johnson to retire 03:38

Johnson blamed the incident on a mix-up in which he failed to take his blood pressure medication. Johnson told reporters at the time he felt he might faint as he was driving home from dinner, so he pulled over to rest not far from his home in Bridgeport, Illinois, CBS Chicago reports. Officers responded to a 911 call from a passerby reporting that someone was asleep in a vehicle at a stop sign.

The responding officers found Johnson slumped over but allowed him to drive home and did not administer a breathalyzer test or a field sobriety test. Johnson said officers do such tests only when a motorist appears impaired or officers smell alcohol or cannabis.
Sources told CBS Chicago that Johnson later admitted in a conversation with the mayor that he'd had "a couple drinks" before he was found passed out behind the wheel.

"It has become clear that Mr. Johnson engaged in a series of actions that are intolerable for any leader in a position of trust," Lightfoot said Monday morning at City Hall, according to CBS Chicago. "The finding of the inspector general's report regarding Mr. Johnson, which I recently reviewed, makes clear that Eddie Johnson engaged in conduct that is not only unbecoming, but demonstrated a series of ethical lapses and flawed decision-making that is inconsistent with having the privilege of leading the Chicago Police Department."

Johnson, a native Chicagoan, held just about every rank on the police force. He was named superintendent in 2016 by then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who had fired Superintendent Garry McCarthy after the release of the now-infamous video of Officer Jason Van Dyke fatally shooting Laquan McDonald and was scrambling to restore confidence in both himself and the department.

Former Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck has been named as interim superintendent while the Chicago Police Board conducts a nationwide search for Johnson's permanent successor, according to CBS Chicago.

Beck has been shadowing Johnson on the job for nearly a month, the station reports, and will now take the reins of the department as Johnson steps down.

Lightfoot said she didn't take the decision to fire Johnson lightly, "however the circumstances demanded these actions."

The mayor said the inspector general's office is still investigating the actions of others involved in the incident.

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