CPD officer who shot man at Red Line station in 2020 found not guilty
A Chicago police officer who was criminally charged in connection with an on-duty shooting at a busy CTA platform during rush hour in 2020 was acquitted by a judge Tuesday in a decision that drew cheers from some in the packed courtroom but was decried by police reform advocates and attorneys for the man who was shot.
Melvina Bogard, 33, was charged with aggravated battery and official misconduct in the Feb. 28, 2020 shooting of Ariel Roman at the Grand Avenue Red Line station, which was captured by cell phone video and went viral, spurring quick condemnation from community members and city officials.
Bogard, who has been an officer with CPD since November 2017, opted to stand trial before a judge, rather than a jury, appearing before Cook County Judge Joseph Claps beginning in September.
Claps delivered his verdict to a courtroom with beefed-up security, telling the crowd that anyone who reacted would be taken into custody. A group that cheered the ruling at the end was quickly ushered out by deputies.
As he read his decision, Claps said Roman had “zero credibility” and posed a danger to the officers at the scene when he grabbed at a Taser. He said Roman’s testimony was an “absurdity” and suggested he perjured himself, pointing to what Claps described as inconsistencies in his story about his actions before and during the shooting.
“From the minute he is spoken to after leaving one train car to the other, he doesn’t pay attention to one command given to him,” Claps said. “Not one.”
Prosecutors have said Bogard and her partner, Bernard Butler, were patrolling the Red Line that afternoon and noticed Roman passing between train car doors while the train was moving. When the train stopped at Grand, the officers asked Roman for identification, prosecutors said, at which point Roman turned away and opened his backpack.
Butler then grabbed at Roman’s sleeve, prosecutors have said, setting off a lengthy struggle during which both officers tased Roman to no apparent effect. As they struggled, prosecutors said, Roman at one point got hold of Butler’s Taser and handcuffs and Bogard used pepper spray, also incapacitating Butler.
As Roman got to his feet, prosecutors alleged, Bogard told him she would shoot him, while Butler told her to go ahead. Bogard drew her weapon and told Roman to show his hands, and Butler stepped away from Roman. Roman stepped forward and wiped his eyes, at which point Bogard fired, shooting him in the “chest/abdomen” area, prosecutors alleged.
Roman then ran up the escalator with Bogard and Butler in pursuit, when the gun discharged a second time, prosecutors said, hitting him in the hip. Roman survived the shooting.
Police did not find a weapon on Roman.
Bogard’s defense attorney has argued that the shooting that injured Roman was in self defense, saying at her 2021 bond hearing that Bogard was outmatched by Roman during the struggle.
Claps said Roman had “more strength” than Bogard and her partner and wasn’t stopped by attempts to stop with with pepper spray or the Taser.
After the hearing, Bogard declined to comment outside the courtroom, but her attorney, Tim Grace, spoke to reporters and said that despite the win, today is “not a day to celebrate.”
Grace said Roman “ignored over 30 verbal commands” while fighting with the officers.
“Officer Bogard was left in a position where she had to make a decision,” Grace said. “She could have ran away … but that’s not her job. That’s not what we pay her to do. We pay her to keep the trains safe.”
But attorneys who represent Roman in the civil case he filed against the Chicago Police Department said Roman had no weapon and was shot in the back while he tried to run away. Greg Kulis, an attorney for Roman, questioned why the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office only charged Bogard for the first shot and not the second.
Gloria Rodriguez, another attorney for Roman, said he just had a colonoscopy bag removed though has to have another surgery stemming from complications from the bag. She said he faces an “uphill battle” for recovery.
“If you get shot, what’s going through your mind is I need to be safe and that’s exactly what the video showed,” she said.
Eric Russell, an activist with the Tree of Life Justice League of Illinois, criticized Claps for not holding Bogard accountable for what he said was excessive force.
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“We advocate hard for police reform, transparency and accountability,” Russell said. “That did not happen today.”
Videos of the shooting that went viral on Twitter showed the prolonged struggle as the two officers tried to take Roman into custody. At one point, according to one of the videos, the male officer later identified as Butler yelled “shoot him” while Roman writhed on the ground fighting attempts by the officers to subdue him.
Roman can be heard in one of the videos saying: “Please, let me go,” telling the officers, “I didn’t do nothing to you. I didn’t do nothing to you.”
In a tweet shortly after the videos went viral, Mayor Lori Lightfoot called the videos “extremely disturbing.” A police spokesman also said the department had “serious tactical concerns” about the officers’ actions, as seen in the videos.
Roman filed a federal lawsuit after the shooting alleging that he was having an anxiety attack when he was “harassed, chased, tackled, pepper-sprayed, tasered and shot twice” by the officers.
Bogard and Butler both have cases before the police board in which Supt. David Brown has recommended dismissal.