CHICAGO (CBS) — Body camera video was released Monday showing former Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson the night he was found slumped over the steering wheel of his police-issued vehicle back in October.
As CBS 2 Political Investigator Dana Kozlov reported, that video led to lies, disappointment, and ultimately the firing of the veteran superintendent who rose through the ranks.
The video was released to CBS 2 eight months after we filed a Freedom of Information Act request. It gives us a glimpse into the officers’ response, which has also been the focus of a city Inspector General investigation.
The video shows officers walking up to Johnson’s Chevrolet Tahoe near 34th Place and Aberdeen Street in the Bridgeport neighborhood early on Oct. 17 of last year.
It began with a 911 call in October about a man slumped in his sport-utility vehicle. Police officers approached, and the newly-released body cam video made it clear that they were approaching a sleeping or passed out Eddie Johnson.
An officer asks, “You just sitting here, or you want to go home?”
Johnson replies, “I’m good,” and the officers leave as one says, “All right, sir, have a good night.”
In the wake of the incident, Johnson said he had gone out for dinner with a group of friends the night before. He blamed the incident on a mix-up with his medication, but did not mention that he had been drinking before he fell asleep behind the wheel of his car. The mayor later revealed to Chicago Sun-Times reporter Fran Spielman that Johnson had been drinking that night.
Weeks later on Nov. 7, we saw Johnson at a podium flanked by family and Mayor Lightfoot, announcing his retirement after 31 years on the job. At the time, Johnson said his history of health problems played a role in his retirement, which was supposed to take effect at the end of the year 2019, and the looming investigation into why he was found in the vehicle did not.
But on Dec. 2, Mayor Lightfoot fired Johnson. She said Johnson had lied to her and to the public, and said video evidence from the incident contradicted Johnson’s statements to her.
Lightfoot has declined to go into specifics about what Johnson lied about, “out of deference to his wife and children,” but sources told CBS 2 Johnson had been out drinking with a woman who was not his wife hours before he was found asleep at the wheel.
As CBS 2’s Jeremy Ross reported, the female officer whom Johnson was with was a member of his security detail and a part-time driver. Sources said they had been drinking on the night of Oct. 17 at Ceres Café, in the Board of Trade Building at 141 W. Jackson Blvd., is also a Chicago Police officer.
Sources said 9th (Deering) District officers responded to the 911 call about finding Johnson asleep at the wheel in Bridgeport near his home. Johnson’s wife is a lieutenant in that district.
Mayor Lightfoot’s official termination letter, also released Monday, read in part that the Inspector General found that Johnson “engaged in conduct unbecoming, thereafter intentionally misled the public about your conduct and lied to me directly.”
That raised some questions about what happened before officers approached Johnson’s vehicle and caused him to lose his superintendent’s pension pay.
According to a representative of the city’s Law Department, the Inspector General’s findings in this matter will not be released – so exactly what Johnson may have lied to the mayor about remained unknown on Monday.
A Chicago Police Department spokeswoman referred all inquiries to the city’s Law Department. The spokeswoman added that with regard to the IG’s findings, per ordinance, they would only be released if they involved a felony or death and are of compelling public interest – which does not apply in this case.
CBS 2’s Jeremy Ross and Political Investigator Dana Kozlov contributed to this report.