CHICAGO (CBS) — The Chicago Police Board has cleared a white police officer in the controversial shooting death of an unarmed black teenager six years ago.
The board’s 5-3 vote on Thursday absolved Officer Brandon Ternand of any wrongdoing, despite a ruling by the Independent Police Review Authority calling the shooting of 15-year-old Dakota Bright unprovoked and unwarranted.
IPRA had recommended Ternand, who is white, be fired for using excessive force for shooting Bright, who is black, in the back of the head.
Bright was a freshman at Robeson High School when he was shot and killed while running away from police on Nov. 8, 2012. An autopsy revealed he was shot in the back of the head.
The shooting sparked controversy, and set off protests in the community. Bright’s family said he had just left a friend’s place, and was walking to his grandmother’s house when he was shot and killed.
The night of the shooting, Ternand and his partner were responding to a call of a burglary that turned out to be a false alarm. Ternand told the Police Board they saw Bright walking in an alley with a gun in his hand.
IPRA had questioned Ternand’s account of the shooting, in which he claimed he shot Bright after he reached for his waist and started turning toward him, after running away and scaling several fences.
Bright was unarmed when he was shot, although a .22-caliber revolver was found in a front yard near where Ternand and his partner began chasing the teen.
A majority of the Chicago Police Board found Ternand’s testimony to be credible and persuasive. The board said he had been a tactical officer for five years, calling him a decorated officer, and noting his reputation for honesty was backed by character witnesses.
Bright’s family sued the city over the shooting, and in 2016 the City Council approved a $925,000 settlement.
Ternand was placed on paid desk duty from 2012 to 2017 while the shooting was under investigation. He was suspended without pay last November. Having been cleared by the Police Board, Ternand will be reinstated to active duty, and given back pay for the time he was suspended.
The Chicago Police Department declined comment on the board’s ruling.
“It would be improper for the Superintendent to comment on this specific case when there are other Police Board cases he has not commented on after the Police Board came to their decision,” CPD News Affairs Officer Michael Carroll wrote in an email.