CHICAGO (CBS) — More than a year after a Chicago firefighter pulled a gun on him while he was running errands in Bridgeport, Jermayne Smith is still nervous about returning to the block where it all happened.
“There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about it,” Smith said. “It haunts me in my dreams.”
The white firefighter who accused an innocent black man of breaking into his car has never been disciplined or charged with a crime, and an investigation into the incident remains open.
Smith, 20, has said he was in Bridgeport on Aug. 24, 2018, to return keys to a former employer, and was steps from his car at 31st and Canal, when a man ran out of a building, pointed a gun at him, and accused him of trying to break into the man’s car.
“When he came out of his house, he pulled the gun, said, ‘What are you doing? Get down on the ground before I kill you,’” Smith recalled this week. “I have not been back since, until right now.”
Smith – who believes he was targeted because of his race – has said the man also falsely identified himself as a police officer, but CBS 2 has identified him as a Chicago firefighter.
The man who pulled the gun on Smith called 911, claiming he had caught Smith breaking into his car. Smith has said police who responded to the 911 call knew he had never touched the car, because he offered to give them fingerprints, but they declined.
As Smith returned to the scene of the incident for the first time, his paranoia about being back there was hard to miss, as he repeatedly looked over his shoulder.
“I’m really worried, actually. I’m reliving the whole thing over again,” Smith said. “I’m worried he’s going to come out this house.”
That’s because the man who pointed a gun at Smith’s head is walking free. Smith said the man falsely identified himself as a police officer.
Real officers who responded to the man’s 911 call chalked it up to a mistake and let both of them go.
Smith said he’s never been charged with a crime in his life.
“I’ve never been to jail, nothing at all. Only thing you’ll find on my record is a parking ticket, that’s it,” he said.
A few days after the incident Smith couldn’t stomach the so-called misunderstanding, and filed a police report.
However, aggravated assault charges against the man with the gun never materialized, nor was the firefighter ever disciplined.
Nearly 500 days later, CBS 2 is still trying to figure out the firefighter’s side to the story, and still wondering why the city hasn’t taken action.
A 12-month-old request to police for body camera and dashboard camera video of the police response to the incident is still “in progress,” and finger pointing continues.
The Chicago Police Department has said it’s not investigating because the Civilian Office of Police Accountability is on the case. COPA has pointed to the Chicago Inspector General’s office, which would only say the “investigation is ongoing.”
“It feels like I’m not taken serious, like it doesn’t matter, just like my life doesn’t matter at all,” Smith said.
Meantime, Smith remains haunted by having a gun pointed at his head.
“It’s pretty bad. It’s really, really, really bad,” he said. “It’s been some horrible days.”
As the images replay in his head, his family worries how much longer it will be until he can move on.
Smith sent a letter to the Inspector General’s office last week, asking for an update on the case. No one wrote or called back.
Meantime, the Chicago Fire Department confirmed the firefighter is still collecting a paycheck. CBS 2 is not identifying him, because he hasn’t been charged.