Cook County prosecutors spent two years conducting an “exhaustive” investigation on a Chicago police officer who drank several before beers before shooting a man to death after the man pointed a cell phone at him.
Yet not once during those two years did prosecutors speak to officer Gildardo Sierra, who had shot two other men in the six months prior to the 2011 shooting, including one fatally.
The shooting, which was caught on a dash cam video, was enough for Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy to acknowledge that allowing Sierra back on the streets after the first two incidents was a mistake.
And the video as well as the fact that Sierra had been drinking was enough for the city to settle with Flint Farmer’s family for $4.1 million last year.
None of that mattered to Cook County State Attorney Anita Alvarez – who has relentlessly prosecuted citizens who record police in public while continuously defending police misconduct.
All that mattered was that Sierra claimed he was “in fear for his life” when Farmer pointed a cell phone at him, prompting him to shoot 16 times, seven bullets striking Farmer.
But it was the last three bullets, the ones that Sierra fired into Farmers’ back while standing over him, that killed him, according to an autopsy report.
And those are the ones that were caught on the dash cam video as another officer pulled up to the scene, which you can see above, noted by the fire flashes from the muzzle.
Sierra, who admitted to drinking “multiple beers” prior to the shooting – after first denying that he had been drinking – was not giving a breathalyzer until five hours after the shooting, which we can assume was a deliberate attempt by investigators to allow him to sober up.
Prosecutors determined his admittance to drinking had no influence in his judgement that night, but they were sure to point out to reporters that Farmer’s blood-alcohol content was .142, nearly twice the legal limit.
And although they were unable to find the time to interview Sierra, they went out of their way to sit down with reporters to justify their questionable decision.
According to the Chicago Tribune:
Four officials from Alvarez’s staff sat down with reporters for three hours to explain the investigation and make a video presentation. They were: chief of staff Dan Kirk; Jack Blakey, chief of the office’s special prosecutions bureau; spokeswoman Sally Daly; and Assistant State’s Attorney Nick Trutenko, who conducted the bulk of the investigation. The Tribune ran a front-page story in 2011 raising questions about the shootings by Sierra.
The prosecutors said although the videotape of the shooting was damning, showing muzzle flashes and suggesting Sierra stood over Farmer as he shot him in the back, the continued investigation yielded forensic and other evidence that led the prosecutors to conclude that the incident was more complex.
“The video is actually somewhat maddening,” Trutenko said. “It’s why we run out every ground ball.”
Prosecutors said that by slowing down the video and syncing it with 911 audio and other information, they were able to draw a better picture of what happened — a picture that corroborated Sierra’s statements to officers that he feared for his life. The prosecutors did not interview Sierra and would not say if they even sought to question him.
Prosecutors pointed to several key pieces of evidence in deciding against charging the officer. One was a wound to Farmer’s right hand that suggested he was pointing his arm at Sierra when he was shot. Prosecutors believe that was one of the first shots, if not the first, to hit him. In addition, DNA tests showed that blood on Farmer’s phone was his, suggesting he was holding the phone when shot. The other shots followed, with the last three hitting Farmer in the back.
The FBI is supposedly investigating the shooting, but the Tribune was unable to determine the status on that investigation.
Last year, after having prosecuted several citizens for recording police under a controversial wiretapping law that has since been ruled unconstitutional, Alvarez embarrassed herself on 60 Minutes where she blindly defended police officers who coerced confessions out of suspects, leading the news show to refer to the city as the “False Confession Capital” of the United States.
You can view that infuriating segment below where several men talk about how they were forced to sign false confessions, only to spend decades in prison.
Alvarez embarrasses herself by refusing to admit these men are innocent despite DNA evidence that indicates otherwise.
Contact info for Alvarez’s office is here.