A police car camera captured it all.  Flint Farmer, lying face down in the grass, between the curb and a sidewalk shortly before 2 a.m. in Chicago.  Farmer had already been shot by a Chicago police officer.  Then, Gildardo Sierra, the veteran officer, walked a semicircle around Farmer as three bright flashes fill the screen.  The flashes were fatal shots into Farmer’s back.  This shooting was the third by the officer in a little less than a year and the second fatality in half that time.  Officer Sierra fired 16 shots at Farmer hitting him seven times according to the autopsy.  The deputy medical examiner that performed the autopsy and reviewed the video footage said that the three shots to his back, while he was lying in the grass, were the ones that killed him.

Officer Sierra told investigators that he feared for his life because he thought Farmer had a gun.  Tragically, like many other excessive police shootings, Farmer had a cell phone in his hand.  Despite the evidence, the police ruled Farmer’s death justified, just as it had Officer Sierra’s other shootings.  However, police superintendent Garry McCarthy said he considers the Farmer case “a big problem” and told the media that Officer Sierra shouldn’t be on the streets.  The FBI is investigating the shooting.

The three shootings raise questions about the police department’s ability to identify trouble officers and protect people from them.  Even their ability to track officer shootings is in question.  The shootings also renew a concern about the department’s ability to be impartial during police violence investigations.  The shootings are also under review by the Independent Police Review Authority, an agency that the city of Chicago founded to investigate shootings by police.

A 2007 Chicago Tribune investigation into a decade’s worth of Chicago police shootings found that the department cleared officers of wrongdoing after only superficial investigations, even when the officers shot people in the back.  The newspaper’s investigation also found that officials repeatedly failed to interview witnesses and consider forensic evidence.

McCarthy told the media that the previous police administration failed to recognize a pattern of police shootings and had no way to track officers who repeatedly took part in these incidents.  He also said the department did not have a system in place to monitor the emotional and psychological well-being of officers involved in the shootings and by extension had no way to make sure their officers were fit for duty.

McCarthy said he believes the first two Officer Sierra shootings were justified and that the officer should have gotten desk duty for a period of time.

“He shouldn’t have been where he was,” McCarthy said during a recent meeting with the Tribune editorial board. “We should’ve had him off the street…”


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