Audio Reveals Cop Changing Tune: Lawyer - NBC Chicago

Audio Reveals Cop Changing Tune: Lawyer

Michael Langford, 5, was killed last month when the car he was in slammed into a tree



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    Audio of police dispatch conversations following a DUI crash that killed a 5-year-old boy last month appear to show the rookie cop changing his story when he learns the evening's chain of events.

    [Audio: Chicago Heights, Steger Police Departments -- May 10, 2010]

    In portions of the audio, released Tuesday, a police dispatcher and the officer are heard discussing a traffic stop in which the keys to the Chevy Cavalier were turned over to someone who police later said was drunk and high on marijuana.

    That driver, Cecil Conner, crashed the car into a tree about an hour later.  The crash killed Michael Langford instantly.

    The boy's mother, Kathie LaFond, is adamant she told police officers that Conner, her boyfriend, was drunk when she was stopped and arrested for driving on a suspended license. 

    Dispatcher:  "Hey, when you did that traffic stop with that LaFond chick, was anyone in the car with her?"
    Officer:  "What?"
    Dispatcher:  "When you arrested LaFond...
    Officer: "Yes.."
    Dispatcher: "Was Cecil still in that vehicle with her?"
    Officer: "Was Cecil... ?  Cecil showed up later on."
    Dispatcher:  "Oh, he showed up later on?"
    Officer:  "Yeah.  Why?" 
    Dispatcher:  "Because you know that accident that's in Steger? 
    Officer:  "Yeah.
    Dispatcher:  "Was there a kid in that car when you stopped it?"
    Officer:  "Yes, there was."
    Dispatcher:  "Well, that child is dead."
    Officer:  "He (Cecil) was alright when I turned it (the car) over to him."
    Dispatcher: "OK, but he was in the vehicle, or he showed up on the scene after you stopped the car?"
    Officer:  "No, no.  He was in the vehicle.  He was in the vehicle."
    Dispatcher:  "He was in the vehicle?"
    Officer:  "He was on the passenger side.  He had a valid driver's license.  He thought she (LaFond) did."
    Dispatcher: "OK, he was in the passenger side?"
    Officer:  "Yes.  And the kid was secured safely in the child seat."
    Dispatcher:  "OK, well that baby.. he's deceased."
    Officer:  "Oh, my God."

    Attorney Mark Horwitz, who requested the tapes, says the recordings show poor decision-making on the part of the officer.

    "I don't know why the discrepancy.  I'm not sure what was going on in the officer's mind at that time, but clearly his story was beginning to change and unravel as soon as he found out that the decision he made led to the death of a 5-year-old child," said Horwitz.  "Clearly, there was a one-officer stop.  There was no second officer called.  There was no supervisor called.  There wasn't even, as far as we can tell right now, an acknowledgment that he acknowledged that there was a child in the back until he found out that the car had crashed."

    The officer has been on the force for about two years.

    Horwitz said his client reviewed the recordings earlier in the day and was grief-stricken by what she heard.  He said LaFond has been going through grief counseling since losing her son.  She has filed a wrongful death suit against the Chicago Heights Police Department.

    Horwitz said he believes the officer didn't follow procedure because he "was out to make an arrest that night."

    "We're going to find out how many other arrests he made, but I think we're going to see a pattern here where this officer was out to bring income in for Chicago Heights," said Horwitz.

    There was no comment from the Chicago Heights Police Department Tuesday night, but the department in the past has said that LaFond did not alert them that Conner was drunk and that he didn't appear to be intoxicated.

    Conner has been charged with reckless homicide.