If You Did What This Chicago Cop Did, You’d Be in Jail

Written by Aviva Shen

Chicago Police Officer Gildardo Sierra will not face any criminal charges for the killing of an unarmed man, Cook County prosecutors announced Tuesday, despite video footage that showed Sierra standing over the victim, Flint Farmer, and shooting him multiple times. Prosecutors concluded that Sierra may have reasonably mistaken Farmer’s cell phone for a gun, and therefore was justified in firing off all 16 rounds in his gun at the unarmed man.

Farmer was Sierra’s third shooting in six months, yet the officer remained on the job. The video showed Farmer lying on the ground bleeding as Sierra shot three bullets into his back. An autopsy later determined those three shots in his back were the fatal wounds.

Sierra eventually admitted that he drank “multiple” beers before he went to work that night. However, the city waited more than five hours after the shooting to give him a breath test, so there was no way to tell if he was impaired during the shooting.

The CPD also ruled Farmer’s shooting justified, though Superintendent Garry McCarthy later told the Chicago Tribune that Sierra should not have been allowed back on the street after the two previous shootings. McCarthy said the department had no way of tracking officers’ shooting records.

In the prosecutors’ defense, putting a cop in prison is remarkably difficult. Police officers are allowed to shoot if they fear for their lives, and proving that use of force was “unreasonable” sets a very high bar. Few police who have used force under suspicious circumstances ever face a judge. A 2007 study by UChicago law professor Craig Futterman found that just 19 of 10,149 complaints of excessive force, illegal searches, racial abuse, sexual abuse and false arrests led to a police suspension of a week or more. Individual police officers are also largely protected from damages claims in civil court through “qualified immunity.”

Though Sierra has gotten off essentially scot-free for his actions, Chicago taxpayers are not so lucky. The city settled a lawsuit over Farmer’s death for $4.1 million in December. Chicago has already paid out about $50 million to settle lawsuits from decades of police torture, and recently paid $8.5 million on behalf of an officer who shot a teenager in the back. Other cities plagued by police misconduct have had to shell out similarly large sums; New York taxpayers paid $185.6 million for one fiscal year of lawsuits against officers, and police misconduct cost Oakland, Calif., more than $13 million in fiscal year 2011.

This post was originally published in ThinkProgress

Photo credit: Thinkstock


Will Rogers
Will Rogers4 years ago

Police state?

Jonathan Y.
Jonathan Y4 years ago

This is outrageous. Unless officers are held to account like any other citizen, then we live in a police state.

Angela Roquemore
Angela Roquemore4 years ago


Joseph Glackin
Joseph Glackin4 years ago

Michael T--

You "Misunderestimate" the venality of Hizzoner Giuliani.
He just wanted to OWN that site. The "pile" was the basis for Rue de's national campaign.
Joe Biden was correct when he described Rue de (there is a pun in there, s'il vou connais francais) and his campaign as " a noun, a verb, and 9/11."

Rue de CAUSED much of the calamity in the aftermath. Would YOU put a Command Post on the 21st floor of a building, for use in times of disaster (like losing POWER)?

Would you put a 250K gal tank of #2 diesel on top of transformers filled with PCBs?

Giuliani did all of the above.

Michael T.
Michael T4 years ago

Then on September 26 Mayor Rudy Giuliani banned photography of the WTC, but the following day, realizing he had no right to do so, he lifted the ban. Despite this, many police officers continued to harass all photographers in the area, especially those without press credentials.
As Fred Krughoff commented, after being physically threatened with assault by a young officer for taking photographs in mid-November without a press pass,

Here is the important part. Read it carefully as it applies to this discussion

"You can't fight the police when they decide to do something that may later turn out to be wrong.

When it comes to the street,

the police

are pretty much

in a position

to make up

whatever rules they want."

- About.com

Michael T.
Michael T4 years ago

Here is something interesting

September 26, 2001 -
"Photography at the World Trade Center site, where thousands of curious New Yorkers and tourists have gathered with still and video cameras since the terrorist attacks, was banned by

Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.

"No photographic equipment or video equipment may be brought into the area or used, except with the approval of the Police Commissioner," said a statement issued by the mayor's office on Tuesday.

The statement said that the ban was issued because the site is a crime scene and that cameras and video equipment could be seized. No one from the mayor's office was available early Wednesday to explain why the order wasn't issued earlier." - Boston Globe/AP (09/26/01)

"The official attitude to photography was often negative; those with cameras were seen as ghouls and made unwelcome near Ground Zero. Many photographers were warned off and some arrested shortly after the events, with police claiming that photography was not permitted because the whole area was a crime scene.

Joseph Glackin
Joseph Glackin4 years ago

This isn't abuse of power. This is a trigger happy sociopath and admitted alcoholic (who else drinks BEFORE work?) who should have been assigned a desk after the first shooting, and FIRED if there was a second.

Kate S.
Kate S4 years ago

Abuse of power sounds about right. Loose cannon

Latonya W.
Latonya W4 years ago

thats what they do.them against us and least most of them....

Melania Padilla
Melania P4 years ago

Abuse of power.... Shame!