CHICAGO (MCT) — Cook County prosecutors said Tuesday they would not bring criminal charges against a Chicago police officer who was captured on videotape fatally shooting an unarmed man, saying an exhaustive review showed that the officer reasonably mistook a cellphone for a gun pointed at him on a darkened street.
The death of Flint Farmer in June 2011 was the third shooting — the second fatal shooting — in six months by Officer Gildardo Sierra, a patrolman in the Englewood district. It was so disturbing that it prompted police Superintendent Garry McCarthy to tell the Tribune that he considered the shooting a "big problem" and to acknowledge the department had erred by allowing Sierra back on the street given the previous shootings.
In December, the city of Chicago settled a lawsuit brought by Farmer's estate for $4.1 million without admitting wrongdoing.
Still, Cook County prosecutors said their two-year investigation of the shooting showed that Sierra had reason to believe that Farmer was armed and posed a threat of "great bodily harm." They said that although Sierra fired his weapon 16 times, hitting Farmer seven times -- including three times in the back -- they did not think they could show that the shooting was unreasonable, a key component of proving that Sierra had committed a crime.
"Although Officer Sierra was mistaken in his belief that Flint Farmer had a gun, not every mistake demands the action of the criminal justice system, even when the results are tragic," State's Attorney Anita Alvarez said Tuesday in a letter to McCarthy.
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