CHICAGO — A Chicago police commander accused of shoving a gun down a man’s throat was acquitted Monday in Cook County Circuit court.
Judge Diane Cannon found Cmdr. Glenn Evans, 53, not guilty of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon and official misconduct. The charges stemmed from a January 2013 incident in which prosecutors said Evans threatened to kill Ricky Williams, a 22-year-old man, by holding a Taser to Williams’s groin and pushing a handgun into his mouth and down his throat. The three-day trial concluded Thursday.
Evans is the highest-ranking official in the Chicago Police Department in years to face misconduct charges. His trial happened in the middle of a tense moment for this city’s relationship with its police department. In recent weeks, an officer was charged with murder, the police superintendent stepped down and graphic videos depicting police shootings have been circulated widely amid a heightened focus nationwide on how police officers use deadly force. Protests have become a nightly occurrence here as residents and activists demonstrated against the police department as well as embattled Mayor Rahm Emanuel (D) and Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez. The Justice Department this month launched a broad civil rights investigation into the department.
Cannon said Williams’s testimony was inconsistent with statements he gave to investigators. He was “eager to change his testimony at anyone’s request to accommodate the evidence,” she said.
Williams testified that the gun went so far down his throat it hit his tonsils and caused him to spit blood. After being spotted by Evans, Williams said he ran into an abandoned house and hid in a kitchen closet because he feared arrest following a marijuana conviction he received seven months earlier. When Evans found Williams, he demanded to know where Evans hid his gun and later charged him with reckless conduct. A gun was never found on the scene and the charge was later dropped.
Williams originally brought his case to the Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA), the city agency tasked to investigate police misconduct. Their review found that Evans’s gun contained Williams’s DNA, although experts testified that it was not conclusive whether the DNA came from Williams’s saliva or hand. In her closing argument, Cook County Assistant State’s Attorney Luaren Freeman called the evidence “a smoking freaking cannon.”
However, Evans’s defense team relied on past cases to show that IPRA was not reliable. Attorney Laura Morask called the embattled agency “inept, corrupt, and at times, comically laughable.” She also called Williams a liar and said that his body showed no evidence of the violence he said he endured once Evans found him in the kitchen.
“He tried to outthink and outsmart everybody. He embellished, he embroidered and he lied like the entire IPRA investigation from start to finish,” Morask said.
Emanuel supported the decision to keep Evans in charge of a West Side district despite IPRA’s recommendation to strip him of his powers. Evans remained in charge until charges were brought in August 2014.
Last week, Emanuel named Sharon Fairley, a former general counsel in the city’s office of Inspector General, as acting chief administrator of IPRA. Since it was created in 2007, the agency has been criticized for running essentially toothless investigations that have yielded few results. Since 2007, only two Chicago police officers involved in the shootings of civilians have been disciplined under its authority and in July, IPRA
Investigator Lorenzo Davis said he was fired after refusing to change findings in three separate police shootings that showed that officers were liable of wrongdoing.
Cannon acknowledged the timing of her verdict, which arrived as Chicago is facing national scrutiny over its policing, telling the courtroom: “This is not a good time to try a case like this.”
The trial revealed that IPRA is continuing to investigate Evans even though it has not yet interviewed him or any of the police on the scene during the Williams incident. Williams’s attorney, Antonio Romanucci, told reporters that he will continue to pursue a civil lawsuit against the city, saying he was confident that the case will prove that Williams’s constitutional rights were violated by “excessive, unwarranted force” inflicted by Evans.