When an off-duty police sergeant encountered Ricardo Hayes, an unarmed, autistic, black teenager, on the South Side of Chicago in the early hours of a summer morning in 2017, the officer ended up shooting the teen twice.
Hayes, who was 18 at the time, survived the incident, which took place on Aug. 13, 2017. Now, documents released Tuesday, including video and audio, undermine the department’s original statement that the teen was armed.
“He pulled a gun on me, walked up to the car,” Sgt. Khalil Muhammad told the dispatcher on the night of the shooting. “I had to shoot.” But Hayes didn’t have a gun, according to the newly released police reports.
Shortly after the shooting, Muhammad was put on administrative leave pending the outcome of an investigation, according to a Chicago Police Department spokesperson.
On the night of the shooting, Hayes was running down the street, apparently fleeing an SUV pursuing him, according to the video. He eventually stopped and turned around, and the vehicle pulled up. Hayes takes a couple steps toward the vehicle before Muhammad, who was wearing plain clothes at the time, fires two shots, striking the teen in the chest and arm.
After he’s shot, Hayes attempts to run away. The 911 calls suggest that Muhammad eventually caught up with him, and he was ultimately transported to hospital by ambulance.
Before the encounter, Hayes’ caretaker had called the police to inform them that he had wandered off, and that he was autistic, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.
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“Ricky Hayes needed help from the police because he had left his late at night and gotten lost,” said Karen Sheley, director of Police Practices Project at the ACLU of Illinois, which filed suit to force the Chicago Police Department to adopt reforms regarding officers' interaction with mentally disabled civilians. “As a black teenager with disabilities, Ricky was at a heightened risk for police violence. Thankfully, he survived. But he should never have been shot.”
In addition to the ACLU suit, Gabriel Hardy, an attorney, has filed a civil lawsuit against Chicago Police Department on behalf of Hayes.
Nearly a quarter of people fatally shot by police in 2017 had a known mental illness or mental disability, according to the Washington Post.
In its statement, the ACLU criticized the yearlong delay in the video’s release and pointed to community distrust following the Chicago PD’s initial decision not to release video showing a police officer shooting Laquan McDonald, a black teen, 16 times. The officer involved was recently convicted on second-degree murder charges.
“For too long, the Chicago Police Department has suspended transparency for the sake of politics,” the ACLU said. “This kind of ‘code of silence’ behavior should have ended with the release of the video of the shooting of Laquan McDonald.”
A statement from Chicago’s Civilian Office of Police Accountability blamed the delay on “the strict prohibitions of the Juvenile Court Act and the research necessary to ensure that release did not otherwise violate state law.”
Cover image: Screenshot from footage released by Chicago Police Department