A Chicago police officer says in a lawsuit filed Monday that his bosses retaliated against him for refusing to change a police report to list a sergeant who shot and wounded an unarmed, autistic man as the victim of the incident.
Sgt. Isaac Lambert was assigned to investigate the August 2017 shooting of Ricardo "Ricky" Hayes by Sgt. Khalil Muhammad who was off duty at the time. Hayes, who is black, was 18 when the shooting happened.
In his lawsuit filed electronically in Cook County Circuit Court, Lambert says his bosses dumped him from the detective division last month, days after he refused to change the report, the Chicago Tribune reported. The lawsuit is against the city of Chicago. City officials could not be reached for comment Monday.
Surveillance video was released in October by the Civilian Office of Police Accountability that shows Muhammad shooting the unarmed Hayes, contradicting an initial police description of an armed confrontation. The grainy video was from a security camera on a home on Chicago's South Side.
Hayes' caretaker had called police to say Hayes had wandered away from home and that he has developmental disabilities.
Before the shooting, Hayes can be seen running along the sidewalk then stopping. Muhammad pulls up alongside, with parked cars between them. Hayes takes a few steps toward Muhammad and the officer shoots him in the arm and chest. Hayes turns and runs, despite his wounds.
A federal lawsuit filed against Muhammad and the city on Hayes' behalf alleges the the officer used excessive force. Muhammad has denied any wrongdoing, court records show. He was placed indefinitely on paid desk duty after the shooting.
Lambert's lawsuit alleges Muhammad called Hayes over to his personal vehicle after spotting him "skipping and running" near his residence about 5 a.m. Hayes, who was about 20 feet (6 meters) from the vehicle, took about four steps toward Muhammad's vehicle when the sergeant opened fire.
Video from the home security camera shows Hayes never did anything to threaten Muhammad or give him any reason to open fire, Lambert alleges.
Later, at Area South detective headquarters, Muhammad "was not able to provide a coherent or believable explanation" for why he shot Hayes, according to Lambert's lawsuit.
Lambert also alleges that some detectives wanted Hayes to be charged with aggravated assault to an officer because Muhammad said Hayaes threatened him. Lambert refused, he says.
The final report on the case went unfinished for several months until a public records request made more than a year after the shooting forced its completion, according to Lambert. Lambert accuses his superiors of further delaying the report while making efforts to "mischaracterize the findings of the investigation" during the review process. Five days after the final draft of the report was submitted with language approved by Lambert, his commander told him he was being reassigned to the patrol section, the suit says.
Lambert's lawsuit alleges his removal from the detective division was because he refused to "participate in an effort to cover up the illegal conduct of Muhammad towards Hayes and because he refused [to] falsify police reports in order to mischaracterize a police shooting." He is seeking unspecified damages as well as to be reassigned to the detective bureau.
"Always tell the truth and always do what’s right, and don’t ever let some boss, especially someone who sits in an office all day at police headquarters, tell you to put your name on something that’s not right," Lambert told reporters at a news conference Monday. "You only have one reputation in life, and make sure that’s one that you can be proud of."