Chicago Prosecutor Refuses to Bring Charges in the Police Shooting of Ronald Johnson

Case law has been upheld repeatedly that police are not allowed to shoot a fleeing suspect unless they pose an imminent threat to the community, which isn't the case here.

Ronald Johnson
Still frames from the dash cam video of the scene of the shooting of Ronald Johnson October 12, 2014, provided by the Cook County State's Attorney's office.

Ronald Johnson was shot in the back after he engaged police in a chase through the streets of Chicago. He was armed and he did flee police, but time and time again, we see police violate their own policies, as is the case with Ronald Johnson. In a not so surprising ruling by the Cook County prosecutor, none of the cops who executed Ronald Johnson will face charges.

The Cook County State Attorney, Anita Alvarez, gave an hour long presentation that included slides, 911 audio and a slew of other evidence that they say proved beyond all reasonable doubt that the officers acted in accordance with the law and will not be charged. It was a dog and pony show from the start. Police and prosecutors alike choose to overlook standard police policy repeatedly, in order to reverse engineer and justify illegal actions.

Ronald Johnson

Based upon an objective review of the evidence and the law, we have determined that the prosecution could not establish beyond a reasonable doubt that the actions of Officer Hernandez were not reasonable and permissible under the laws of the State of Illinois,” Alvarez stated. Alvarez is the same prosecutor who took over a year to charge Jayson Van Dyke in the killing of Laquan McDonald. Undoubtedly, the decision not to charge has come from the pressure of facing re-election in March. 

In this case, Ronald Johnson had a gun, reportedly struggled with officers, and was an all-round bad guy by their standards. No one should argue this point. What should be argued is the blatant abuse of the use of force policy that the Chicago PD engaged in. Police would like to have you think that the chase and the struggle were all part of one continuous event. This is false. In law enforcement, use of force scenarios are defined by an increase or decrease in the kind of resistance demonstrated by the bad guy. Once a situation de-escalates, the amount of force has to de-escalate as well. In this case, once Johnson turned his back and ran, he was no longer an active threat to the officers or the community.

Ronald Johnson

Case law has been upheld repeatedly that police are not allowed to shoot a fleeing suspect unless they pose an imminent threat to the community, which isn’t the case here. Johnson was running into a deserted park. Despite the argument put forward that despite his running, he posed an imminent threat to the officers, fifty years of civil rights law would say otherwise. The law says that the officer must have probable cause – that the fleeing subject poses a great danger to the officers or the community. At no time is it alleged that Johnson turned, or attempted to point the firearm at anyone. His goal was to escape. Nonetheless he was shot in the back and killed as he ran.

Ronald Johnson

Protesters took to the streets on Monday, protesting the killing of Ronald Johnson. This occurred after the Chicago Black Lives Matter organization deemed that a cover-up was occurring. Police were initially accused of planting the weapon, prompting the release of the dash cam video showing Johnson had a gun. Michael Oppenheimer, the attorney for the Johnson family, has been very vocal in his opposition to the shooting. “He had no right to shoot him in the back, no right at all,” Oppenheimer stated. According to Oppenheimer, this case has been “a cover-up since the beginning.”

Johnson’s mother, Dorothy Holmes, has already filed a law suit against the city. “I’m not going to stop until I get what I want for him, and that’s justice. If that had been anybody in her (Alvarez) family that got killed like that, that officer would have been charged with murder and that case would have been looked into way before a year.” The case is being looked into by the Justice Department, who seems to always chime in on these police shootings, but have yet to actually see justice done in any of the recent high profile cases.

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