Many fatal police shootings in Chicago are being mislabeled in city data, with civilian deaths at times appearing as "suicides" if they appear at all, an investigation from Truthout finds.
The investigation, the first in a series, focuses around the death of 14-year old Pedro Rios Jr., who was shot by police on July 4, 2014, just after a fireworks celebration on Lake Michigan.
"That authorities in the squad car pursued the 14-year-old—and that an officer discharged a firearm, killing Rios—is not in dispute," reads the report. "Yet an official copy of the boy's death record, certified by the Cook County medical examiner, states ‘suicide’ under ‘manner of death.’ Performed by the same medical examiner's office, Rios' autopsy findings state ‘homicide.’"
Rios was shot twice in the back by police, the report notes. The bullets had an upward trajectory, raising the possibility that he was shot while laying on the ground.
"Rios' death is among at least five fatal police shootings uncounted in 'officer involved shootings' statistical reports from 2012 to 2014, provided to the public by the Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA) and derived directly from the Chicago Police Citizen and Law Enforcement Analysis and Reporting (CLEAR) database," the report says.
Through its independent analysis, the non-profit news organization claims that is has uncovered a trend in "underreporting police violence," coupled with an accountability process that is "lacking on all fronts."
Discrepancies in city data and the investigation's findings are highlighted in the tables below:
During the investigation, Truthout brought Rios' case to the attention of county officials, one of whom "acknowledged the mistake and reported its correction in the state's vital records database."
Of the sixteen people who Chicago police shot and killed between 2012 and 2014, ten have had their cases closed by the Independent Police Review Authority. All were deemed as "justified," says the report, despite the fact that "six victims were shot in the back; three were unarmed. In one instance, an alleged weapon was never recovered. In multiple instances, an alleged weapon was in dispute."
In a future part of the series, Truthout will be looking into other cases, as well as investigating what it says is evidence of "police bias" in agencies that are tasked with police accountability investigations.
Police accountability issues are expensive for taxpayers, the report notes, and every effort should be made to see that every case is adequately investigated. "A combined $21 million in taxpayer funds are dedicated to the city's police accountability structure," it reads.
Further, between 2012 and 2014, the Chicago Police Department paid out "$192 million in settlements, verdicts and fees… $61 million was paid to settle wrongful convictions, and another $43 million went toward cases charging excessive force."
Daniel Rivero is a producer/reporter for Fusion who focuses on police and justice issues. He also skateboards, does a bunch of arts related things on his off time, and likes Cuban coffee.