A newly released report reveals that Chicago's Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA) recommended the firing of two police officers and suspensions of two sergeants and two other officers in the aftermath of a violent encounter in the tumultuous days after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis two years ago.
One of the officers recommended for termination retired during the course of the investigation.
In the Chicago incident, which unfolded June 1, 2020, in the parking lot of the Brickyard Mall, a group of baton-wielding officers smashed the windows of a Hyundai-sedan, in what investigators said was a mistaken belief that a man was inside who had used a hammer to break the windows of a nearby business.
In reality, the report stated, there was no such assailant in the car.
"COPA discovered the Department's interaction with the complainant, was the result of officer David Laskus providing false information about the complainant's vehicle," the report stated. "COPA was unable to locate a single witness, beyond officer Laskus, who observed...any occupant with a hammer or who saw a hammer in the vehicle."
Nevertheless, the COPA report suggests the officer's allegation of a hammer-wielding assailant inside the car led officers to surround the vehicle, smash the windows and pull the occupants inside to the ground.
"Officer Laskus' own statements related to the hammer defy basic logic," the investigators wrote. "Officer Laskus fabricated the existence of the hammer to justify his actions related to stopping and detaining the occupants of the vehicle."
COPA recommended that Laskus be fired and noted they would have made a similar recommendation for a second officer, Patrick Dwyer, who investigators alleged engaged in "unprofessional, derogatory, and racist remarks."
(The report says Dwyer retired from the department before any such punishment could be meted out, and that he had actually submitted his request for retirement prior to the incident.)
The front-seat passenger in the car, Mia Wright, said she was dragged from the car by her hair by Laskus and sustained injuries which left her blinded in one eye.
"They dragged me out of the car and slammed me to the ground," she said.
Earlier this year, the City of Chicago reached a settlement of $1.65 million in a lawsuit filed by Wright and her companions.
At the time of the incident, Mayor Lori Lightfoot promised a thorough vetting of the allegations.
"I want to be very clear," she said. "We will hold people accountable who cross the line."
The COPA report revealed Thursday had been sent to Police Supt. David Brown last fall. The Chicago Police Board docket shows a hearing on Laskus' recommended separation is scheduled for next week.
"Truthfulness is a cornerstone of the law enforcement profession," the COPA report noted. "Any member who knowingly provides false information is not suitable to properly enforce the law."