The Chicago police officer captured on video during an altercation with a woman at North Avenue Beach has had more than two dozen complaints filed against him, records show, with three resulting in discipline – including a 20-day suspension stemming from the officer’s 2008 arrest for pointing his gun at someone during a domestic incident while off duty in Tennessee.
Multiple sources confirmed to NBC 5 Investigates the identity of the officer at the center of the incident that took place on the lakefront just after midnight early Saturday morning. NBC 5 is not naming the officer because he has not been publicly identified or charged with any wrongdoing. Attorney information for the officer was not immediately available and he did not respond to multiple attempts to reach him.
A review of two databases – one of police complaints maintained by Chicago’s Office of the Inspector General as well as the Citizens Police Data Project created by the non-profit Invisible Institute – found that the officer has been the subject of 27 complaints between 2000 and 2018, three of which were sustained.
The first sustained complaint against the officer stemmed from an incident that took place on Oct. 4, 2007, according to the Invisible Institute, which reported that the officer received a reprimand. Records from the Chicago Police Department’s Bureau of Internal Affairs show that complaint was categorized as “neglect of duty.”
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The following year, the officer was arrested while off duty on Nov. 29, 2008, in New Tazewell, Tennessee, resulting in the second sustained complaint against him, according to records from the Independent Police Review Authority, Chicago’s police oversight agency at the time.
IPRA’s report of the incident says that the officer was arrested after verbally abusing and pointing his weapon at a victim, as well as failing to follow police orders. He was charged with three counts of aggravated assault, per IPRA’s summary of the case, which said he “brought discredit to the department.” The IPRA record of the case shows that the complaint was sustained and the officer was suspended for 20 days.
The New Tazewell City Court Clerk, the New Tazewell Police Department, the Claiborne County Clerk’s Office and the area’s District Attorney General’s Office all said they were unable to locate any record of that arrest.
The officer was suspended a second time for two days in connection with the third sustained complaint against him, this one related to an incident on May 16, 2014, according to the Invisible Institute. The BIA’s record of that complaint categorized it as “conduct unbecoming” of an officer.
In 2017, a junk collector sued the officer and the city of Chicago, alleging that during a traffic stop on March 15, 2016, the officer falsely arrested and charged him with unlawful use of a weapon based on tools in his car that he used for work, like a hatchet and knife, even after he showed his license to work as a junk collector. The charge against the junk collector was ultimately dismissed and the city eventually settled the lawsuit for $15,000 with no admission of guilt.
Attorneys for Nikkita Brown said she was walking her dog near North Avenue Beach at around 12:12 a.m. Saturday, after the lakefront was closed to the public, when the officer approached her. Video Brown took with her cell phone shows him announcing that he was turning on his body-worn camera as he walks toward her.
“Please don’t – please respect my space,” Brown can be heard saying, adding, “It’s COVID, six feet.”
“Respect your space? I’m about to put handcuffs on you,” the officer replies.
“You do not have a mask on,” Brown says, to which the officer replies, “I don’t need a mask, I’m outside,” before the video ends.
Another video taken by a bystander appears to show Brown and her dog backing away from the officer as he continues to follow her and gesture with his arms to steer her away from the lakefront. The video, taken from a distance, does not capture audio of their conversation.
Brown then stops, with a cell phone in her hand, and the officer can be seen attempting to take her phone, grabbing and holding onto her right arm with both hands as she screams and struggles to break free, still holding the leash of her dog, entangled in the scuffle. Brown loses a shoe and drops her phone as the officer gains control over both of her arms and fully restrains her.
The physical struggle lasts for a little over a minute before the officer releases her. They can be seen continuing to speak to one another as she collects her belongings and then walks away from the lakefront. The officer walks the opposite direction, back toward the beach and the video ends.
Attorneys for Brown, who is Black, called the encounter an “unprovoked attack” and an “obvious case of racial profiling,” saying she was emotionally traumatized by the confrontation.
Chicago's Civilian Office of Police Accountability said Monday that it was investigating the incident, recommending that Police Supt. David Brown relieve the officer of his police powers or place him on administrative duties pending the results of the investigation. Brown placed him on administrative duties that same day.
“This is something that is viral on video, I would just ask the public to allow COPA to do its job in getting to the bottom of what happened,” Supt. David Brown said when asked about the incident at an unrelated news conference on Monday.
"So it's just, again, I know it's frustrating for the public to wait once you see a viral video for the conclusion to an investigation, but COPA just started,” he continued. “I just want to ask the public allow COPA to complete this investigation and allow for this process of finding out what happened, getting to the bottom of it, to play out before we then are able to make any kind of next steps from my perspective, from a COPA perspective."