The Chicago Police Board has approved a suspension of 180 days for a police sergeant who was found to have unjustifiably shot an unarmed autistic 18-year-old.
In a unanimous vote, the board found that Sgt. Khalil Muhammad was guilty of violating several police rules, and found that cause existed to warrant suspending him from the force for a period of six months.
On Aug. 13, 2017, Muhammad was off-duty and was driving home when he saw 18-year-old Ricardo Hayes standing near a neighbor’s vehicle. Muhammad said that he believed Hayes looked suspicious, and deciding to investigate “because of recent car burglaries in the area,” according to the police board report.
Muhammad approached Hayes and asked what he was doing. According to Muhammad’s testimony, Hayes began running away. Muhammad then drove his vehicle down the street and caught up to Hayes, who was now standing on a sidewalk.
Muhammad said he once again addressed Hayes, and that’s when the 18-year-old man began to walk towards him. Hayes allegedly began to pull a dark object out of his waistband, and Muhammad ordered him to show his hands. The officer immediately opened fire, striking Hayes in the arm and chest.
The object was a cellphone, according to police, and no weapon was found at the scene.
According to the police board, Hayes continually asked first responders “why was I shot? All I had was a telephone!” He was taken to an area hospital, and eventually recovered from his injuries.
In their report, the police board found that Muhammad lacked “lawful justification” in the shooting, and did not have “a reasonable belief that such force was necessary.”
Those findings led to the conclusion that Muhammad had violated five different departmental rules, and the sergeant pleaded guilty to four of the violations.
Based on the admission, and based on Muhammad’s record of having zero sustained complaints during his tenure as an officer, the board found that the 180-day suspension was appropriate in a unanimous vote.
Muhammad had originally been suspended for 90 days, but the Civilian Office of Police Accountability and former Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson agreed to double the suspension based on COPA’s investigation into the shooting, which concluded earlier this year.