EAST HAZEL CREST, Ill. (STMW) – Chicago Police fatally shot a motorist in south suburban East Hazel Crest on Tuesday evening after the man rammed a police vehicle while attempting to flee from undercover investigators, officials said.
But L’Nea Lancaster, a girlfriend of Ryan Rogers, said he didn’t know the detectives were police officers. Rogers thought he was being robbed, she said.
An autopsy performed on Thursday found that Rogers, 27, suffered a fatal gunshot wound to the back and his death was ruled a homicide, according to the Cook County Medical Examiner’s office.
According to police, detectives conducting surveillance in a residential neighborhood watched Rogers, who they described as suspicious, and a female companion climb into a vehicle in the 1900 block of West 171st Street.
When detectives approached, the man accelerated his vehicle towards an officer at a “high rate of speed” before striking a police vehicle, according to a police statement.
One of the officers, “in fear of his life,” opened fire, striking the driver, Rogers, at least once, police said.
After he was shot, Rogers drove a short distance in the vehicle before police arrested him.
East Hazel Crest Police Chief Ray Robertson said his department was informed “a couple weeks ago” about an ongoing investigation by Chicago Police in his village, though he couldn’t confirm whether it was told CPD would be there Tuesday night.
That’s when he said his department received 911 calls reporting shots fired, and his officers responded. They contacted an off-duty sergeant and told him Chicago Police were involved, Robertson said. The chief said that sergeant called him at home.
But Lancaster, who said she was with Rogers when he was shot, said police never identified themselves to the couple. She said she believes Rogers thought he was being robbed.
She said she and Rogers, her boyfriend of a little more than two years and the father of two small children, were leaving their home in the 1900 block of W. 171st to get something to eat.
When they neared their white Chevrolet Trailblazer, she said, a green SUV and a brown van pulled up around the corner “very fast.” She said one of those two drivers pulled his car up near theirs and said to Rogers, “What’s up, man?”
Lancaster said Rogers simply looked at him and got in the car but she said Rogers was spooked when he realized the man in the van had gotten out of his car and had something in his hand.
“His first instinct is to get out of there,” Lancaster said of her boyfriend.
She said Rogers put his car in drive and pulled off really fast, sideswiping the van as shots were fired. By the time Rogers’ vehicle approached nearby Wood Street, she said, he was starting to pass out.
“He said, ‘Baby, they shot me,’” Lancaster said. “I’m shot.”
She said she took over the wheel, adding that she still didn’t know they were being chased by police.
Lancaster said she stopped when she saw the blue lights of a police car behind her. She got out of the car and was told to get down on the ground, she said, all the while screaming for help for her boyfriend.
“They handcuff me in the middle of the street,” Lancaster said. “They’re questioning me about something that doesn’t even pertain to what just happened. And still nobody’s checking on him.”
Lancaster said an ambulance arrived 10 minutes later but she didn’t learn Rogers had died until she returned home. And she insisted she didn’t know the men who confronted them were police until she was informed by her sister during a phone call.
Rogers died 10:25 p.m. Tuesday at Ingalls Memorial Hospital in Harvey, according to the medical examiner’s office. No officers were injured.
Chicago Police declined to elaborate on their statement.
The Independent Police Review Authority, which looks into officer-involved shootings, is investigating the matter.
(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2013. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)