CHICAGO — The agency that investigates shootings by police has determined an officer shouldn't be punished in the fatal shooting of Ronald "Ronnieman" Johnson.
The October 2014 shooting has been the subject of controversy, with Johnson's family saying officers took part in a "coverup." But on Friday the Independent Police Review Authority, which investigates police use of force, said the officer who killed Johnson was justified in using deadly force.
The officer, George Hernandez, had seen Johnson "in a struggle" with officers, other officers had shouted that Johnson had a gun, Hernandez saw the gun and Johnson was running toward officers when Hernandez shot at him, IPRA said in its report.
"In this case, the totality of the circumstances led [Hernandez] to reasonably believe that the use of deadly force was appropriate," IPRA said.
Officials have said Johnson was leaving a party shortly after midnight on Oct. 12, 2014, when the car he and others were in was shot at. The group parked the car and returned to the area where they'd been shot at, said then-State's Attorney Anita Alvarez in December 2015.
Officers had been called to the scene of the gunfire, and while Johnson spoke with an officer others saw he had a gun and told him to drop it, Alvarez said. Johnson ran away but ran into two other officers, who pulled their guns and told Johnson to drop his, Alvarez said.
Johnson indicated he would comply, but as one of the officers went to holster his gun other officers shouted that Johnson had a gun and he ran away again, Alvarez said. At some point, Johnson knocked an officer to the ground, according to the IPRA report.
Hernandez saw Johnson running at other officers and fired at him, hitting Johnson twice, officials said.
People, including a friend and relative, who were with Johnson that night disputed at least portions of the police's account, according to the Friday IPRA report. His friends and family have repeatedly said Johnson was not known to carry a gun, and some of those at the shooting said Johnson was stopping running and was putting his hands up when he was shot.
Those descriptions of Johnson's body were "inaccurate," though, IPRA concluded, noting that video of the shooting showed Johnson turning partially back toward Hernandez and raising his arm.
The agency, which referred to Hernandez as "Officer A" and Johnson as "Subject 1" in its report, ultimately determined the shooting had been justified and within the Chicago Police's use of force policy.
"At the point Officer A saw Subject 1 attempting to escape with a handgun, after having just assault a police officer, Officer A was entitled to use deadly force to prevent Subject 1's escape," IPRA wrote. In another part of the report, IPRA said, "The facts here support Officer A's perception that Subject 1 was a potential threat to him and other responding officers."
Johnson's family has previously criticized IPRA and filed suit against the agency and Chicago Police Department.
Hernandez was also investigated for "disturb[ing]" evidence by moving the gun found near Johnson, but he was also exonerated of that allegation because IPRA concluded it would have been "negligent and a potential risk to officer safety" to leave it near Johnson. Hernandez said he thought Johnson was alive and breathing when he moved the gun away from him, according to IPRA.
Others allegations Hernandez faced — that he failed to qualify his gun and had mismatched ammunition in his gun — were sustained, IPRA said.
Read the full IPRA report here:
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