In their third day of deliberations, a Cook County jury ruled that Chicago Police Officer Robert Gonzalez was not justified in shooting 17-year-old Christian Green four years ago.
But they awarded Green’s family just $350,000 in damages.
“No matter what the amount was, it could never replace my son,” Green’s mother Patricia said after court. “It wouldn’t have mattered if it was 200 dollars or zero - it didn’t matter - you can’t replace my child.”
The case was never clear cut. Video obtained by NBC 5 showed Green running from police July 4, 2013. At one point on that video, he was seen attempting to dispose of a gun in a trash can, but it bounced out, he picked it up again and kept running.
During courtroom testimony, officers insisted that seconds later he pointed that gun at the pursuing police. Officer Gonzalez fired 11 times, striking Green once.
But the family noted that the police narrative of the incident seemed to change over time. While initial versions from the day of the shooting indicated that the youth had turned and pointed his gun at officers, the teenager’s autopsy revealed that he had been shot in the back.
“From the officers who were involved at the scene, to the detectives who put their heads in the sand and looked the other way, to the IPRA investigation which was just completely lacking at every level, and then when the officers availed themselves of the resources of the City of Chicago to conspire and put together a story, it just fell short at every level,” said family attorney Victor Henderson. “Justice does not always move forward as quickly as we would like it to.”
The case was fraught with controversy. Gonzalez and others involved in the Green shooting were once part of the tactical team of disgraced Chicago Police sergeant Ronald Watts. Watts went to prison for allegedly shaking down drug dealers on the south side, and a pair of whistle-blowing officers alleged that the entire tactical team was dirty. But accounts of those associations were barred from the Green proceedings.
The trial was also unique because it featured the almost unprecedented testimony of Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson. Johnson was the street deputy on duty the day Green was shot in 2013.
“I believe there was a cover-up,” Green’s mother told reporters. “But I’m satisfied with the outcome.”
In the end, while the jury ruled that Gonzalez was not justified in shooting Green, the award was much smaller than many associated with other fatal police shootings in Chicago.
“You know, we all have to focus on the fact that when the United States Justice Department comes to our city and says something is wrong, that speaks volumes,” Henderson said. “Even if it wasn’t as great as we wanted it to be, they found in our favor, and that’s a victory.”
Gonzalez and his city attorneys left the courthouse without comment. “We are disappointed in the jury’s verdict,” a law department spokesman said in a statement. “And are considering our legal options.”