By Megan Hickey


CHICAGO (CBS) — A video shared hundreds of thousands of times since Thursday afternoon shows a Chicago police officer tossing a man to the ground near 79th and Cottage Grove.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot has called the video “disturbing.”

Witnesses Friday described the moments right before the take-down.

They told CBS 2 investigator Megan Hickey it all happened very quickly. The officer was about to write the man a ticket for drinking in public when the man turned around and spit in the officer’s face. A word of caution — the video of what happened after that is difficult to watch.

The cell phone recording picks up right as a Chicago Police officer hoists a man in a dark hoodie up in the air and slams him on the ground.

His head crashes into the curb and the man lays motionless as another officer straddles him and appears to tap him on the arm.

He’s immobile for the remainder of the 40-second video.

What isn’t seen are the moments leading up to it. One man did, but asked that CBS 2 not show his face.

“He had him down on the car, he turned around, spit in his face. He went off,” he said.

He said the suspect was drinking a fifth of vodka when the two officers walked up and told him that they were writing him a ticket.

But the witness said that before the officer had a chance, the man turned around and spit in the officers face.

Chicago police said the man also licked the officer’s face and threatened him.

CPD described the maneuver caught on video as an “emergency take down.”

The man was taken to the University of Chicago Medical Center and at last check, his condition was stabilized.

A spokesperson added that the incident is under investigation “as the actions in the video are concerning.” The officer has been relieved of police powers pending the investigation.

Friday, Lightfoot chimed in on Twitter, saying in part: “While a single video does not depict the entirety of the interactions between the police and the individual, this particular video is very disturbing.”

Was the use of force justified?

CBS 2 combed through the CPD Consent Decree that was finalized this year. There’s only one reference to “take-down techniques.”

The policy notes only that an officer should not use a chokehold in doing so. Officers can’t use force if a suspect is “insulting an officer.” But it doesn’t talk about spitting or licking the officer.

So what does the eyewitness think?

“It was justified, yes. You shouldn’t spit on a man. A man that was going to write you a ticket for a drink. What are you acting crazy for?”

Lightfoot said that an investigation by the Civilian Office of Accountability will be expedited.

Chicago police said officers will be held accountable if it’s determined that they were in the wrong.

Megan Hickey