A Chicago police officer was convicted Thursday by a federal jury for tipping off a high school buddy about a drug raid, the U.S. Attorney’s office says.
Officer Ronald Coleman, 46, told his friend’s cousin police planned to search about a dozen homes in the North Lawndale neighborhood on the city’s West Side, including the friend’s house, as part of an investigation into drug sales, prosecutors said.
The investigation included surveillance and wiretaps focusing on Rodney Bedenfield, the primary drug supplier, who was “an associate” of Coleman’s friend, prosecutors said.
The friend and his cousin, who played basketball with Coleman in high school, testified in the case.
Coleman, working alongside the Drug Enforcement Agency, knew his friend was involved in Bedenfield’s trafficking operation, according to prosecutors.
After the sworn officer tipped off his friend's cousin, the friend told Bedenfield about the impending bust, according to the U.S. Attorney's office. Bedenfield then moved the cache of drugs and “other contraband” to another location, according to authorities.
Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson said in a statement that Coleman was suspended when the department learned of the charges and is now “seeking his termination.”
“Mr. Coleman's actions were an egregious betrayal of public trust and undermine everything the men and women of CPD stand for because to all of us, this more than a job, it's who we are,” Johnson said.
Just two days before the raids were planned to take place, a wiretap picked up a conversation between a tipster and one of the targets.
"We gotta homie that works on the task force," the caller said, according to the Chicago Tribune. "Clean the place up."
Because of Coleman’s tip, Bedenfield was seen by authorities carrying large bags from a residence and taking them to another location around the corner, prosecutors said. DEA agents and police officers later raided that location and found about 400 grams of heroin, two containers of lactose, five handguns, a rifle, multiple handgun magazines and ammo, authorities said. Also recovered were three digital scales, two heat sealers, a hand mixer, plastic baggies and a bill counter, accorindg to prosecutors.
Coleman, of Chicago, was convicted of obstruction of justice after a four-day trial. He faces up to 20 years in prison and will be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Charles Norgle on Nov. 15 at 11:30 a.m.
Bedenfield, 43, of Chicago, was indicted separately on multiple drug trafficking and gun charges, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. He pleaded guilty to the drug charges and was convicted of the gun charges at a bench trial in federal court, authorities said.
Bedenfield was sentenced to 18 years in prison.