CHICAGO - Three Chicago police officers face dismissal more than five years after they were involved in a violent arrest in which a man was repeatedly pistol-whipped and shocked with a Taser at a Humboldt Park convenience store.
In a report last March, the Civilian Office of Police Accountability called for the firing of Officers Chavez Siler, Corey Boone and Robert Clark for their alleged roles in the brutal arrest, the Chicago Sun-Times is reporting.
Chicago Police Supt. David Brown agreed with COPA’s recommendations to discharge the officers in a document filed March 11 with the Chicago Police Board, which set in motion disciplinary proceedings. A status hearing is set for Tuesday.
The incident began early March 15, 2017, when a security guard at a mini-mart in the 3700 block of West Chicago Avenue told Siler and Officer Michael Benamon an armed man was inside, according to COPA. Brown’s letter to the police board identifies the man as 27-year-old Charles Whitehead.
As the officers tried to detain Whitehead inside the store, a struggle ensued and Siler placed a gun to his head and struck him with it — despite Whitehead’s apparent efforts to comply with orders to raise his hands. As they wrestled throughout the store, Benamon also punched Whitehead before ultimately disarming him, COPA reported.
"I got it," COPA quoted Benamon as saying before handing the Glock handgun to Boone as he arrived.
After the gun was recovered, COPA said Siler continued aiming his own weapon at Whitehead and "pistol-whipping" him in the face, even as he laid on the ground. Siler also called on someone else to use a Taser on Whitehead’s face as Benamon kneeled on him in front of a cooler, prompting Boone to shock Whitehead in the back.
The violent confrontation apparently left Whitehead unconscious and only stopped after he was "motionless on the ground," according to COPA. His face was left bloodied, and "a significant amount of blood" was found on the floor.
Store surveillance footage released by the Chicago Reader last year shows the melee lasted almost five minutes.
Whitehead was charged with a list of felonies stemming from the arrest, according to Cook County court records. He pleaded guilty to one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm and was sentenced to four-and-a-half-years in prison.
Siler, who COPA accused of using "deadly force," now faces dismissal for allegedly violating five departmental rules, including for unnecessarily using his weapon and for engaging in an unjustified physical altercation, according to the administrative charges Brown filed with the police board.
Boone allegedly broke those same five rules, as well as three others for allegedly lying to COPA investigators, failing to report his colleagues’ excessive use of force and failing to intervene, according to the charging document. Clark also allegedly made false or misleading statements to investigators and failed to prevent or report the alleged abuse against Whitehead, Brown wrote.
Siler, Boone and Clark were all relieved of their police powers last July in relation to Whitehead’s arrest, according to a police spokesperson. All three were placed into no-pay status on March 24, weeks after Brown filed the administrative charges against them.
Tim Grace, an attorney for Boone and Clark, said his clients "acted within policy and look forward to presenting their cases before the Police Board." An attorney representing Siler didn’t respond to requests for comment.
COPA also recommended a 60-day suspension for Benamon, a Black officer who allegedly punched Whitehead and conceded to COPA investigators that he used a racial slur for African Americans during the incident. The police oversight agency also sought 180-day suspensions for Sgt. Kevin Leahy and Lt. Wilfredo Roman, both accused of signing off on "multiple deficient reports" containing omissions or inaccuracies.
Benamon, Leahy and Roman were all served notices of discipline, and grievances are pending, the police spokesperson said. Benamon and Leahy remain on active duty.
Roman was stripped of his police powers in July amid an unrelated COPA investigation into allegations he shoved a flashlight between the buttocks of a 17-year-old carjacking suspect. He was later charged in August with felony counts of aggravated battery in the public way and official misconduct in connection to that incident.