CHICAGO (CBS) — The Chicago Police Board on Thursday took the first steps toward deciding whether Officer Patrick Kelly should be fired over allegations he shot his friend, Michael LaPorta, and lied about it for years.
Last month, Police Supt. Eddie Johnson filed disciplinary charges against Kelly, accusing him of shooting LaPorta without justification in January 2010.
A report by the Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA) in September ruled Kelly likely shot LaPorta after a night of heavy drinking. COPA recommended Kelly be fired, and Johnson later concurred.
The Chicago Police Board on Thursday held an initial status hearing on the case, and it was brief and to the point.
Kelly wasn’t required to attend and didn’t show up. City attorneys handed over thousands of pages of evidence to Kelly’s defense team.
The next hearing in the case was scheduled for Dec. 2.
The process of deciding Kelly’s future with the department could take months.
The shooting happened after the two spent the night drinking together in January 2010. The friends went back to Kelly’s apartment, where LaPorta says they got into an argument about Kelly hitting his own dog.
LaPorta has said Kelly then shot him with his service weapon. Kelly called 911 with a very different story, reporting it as a suicide attempt.
The Independent Police Review Authority – which COPA replaced in 2017 – cleared Kelly of shooting LaPorta in 2011, but recommended he be suspended for other misconduct charges, including drunkenness and failure to secure his weapon.
COPA reopened the case in 2017, and their final report said officers failed to investigate the shooting as a possible crime. The agency ruled the evidence showed Kelly likely pulled the trigger, and gave false statements to detectives.
While COPA was still investigating the case in December 2018, a response from Johnson said Kelly couldn’t be fired, because he already had been disciplined for other matters in the case.
“Officer Kelly and the Department settled and resolved all issues regarding the allegations arising from the shooting of [Michael LaPorta] … and any further discipline is now barred by the prohibition against double punishment,” Johnson wrote. “As such the Department concurs with the factual findings with respect to the alleged conduct, but does not concur with COPA’s recommended penalty of separation.”
However, once COPA released its final report in September, Johnson reversed course, and sought to fire Kelly.
“Patrick Kelly should be fired from the Police Department. He should have been fired 15 years ago, let alone right now,” said LaPorta’s attorney, Antonio Romanucci.
LaPorta won a $44.7 million verdict in a lawsuit against Kelly and the city in 2017. LaPorta was left permanently disabled after the shooting.
The city has appealed that verdict, however, and LaPorta has yet to receive any compensation.
“They owe this family money,” Romanucci said. “Mikey LaPorta deserves to live out the rest of his life in as much comfort as possible.”
LaPorta’s mother said, beyond being fired, Kelly should face criminal charges for the shooting.
Kelly maintains he never shot LaPorta.
Thursday’s hearing is just the first step for the Police Board, which must hold evidentiary hearings in the case before deciding whether Kelly should be fired.