Self-defense? Man stands trial in killing of Chicago officer

The lawyer for a man charged in the killing of a Chicago police commander said Tuesday that his client acted in self-defense, while prosecutors said he fatally shot the veteran officer to avoid arrest.

Shomari Legghette is on trial in Cook County Circuit Court for first-degree murder in the killing of Cmdr. Paul Bauer. The commander was walking to City Hall on Feb. 13, 2018, when he heard a call on his radio that a man was running from other officers. Prosecutors say Bauer, 53, gave chase and, during a brief struggle, Legghette pulled out a gun and shot Bauer several times.

“He did so for no reason other than his own desperate attempts to avoid police, to avoid custody, to avoid what even began as an attempt to have a simple conversation,” Assistant State’s Attorney Risa Lanier said in her opening statement.

Lanier described Legghette and Bauer tumbling into a stairwell, and snapped her fingers sharply as she described the volley of gunfire.

“He would answer the call and perform the functions of a Chicago police officer for the very last time,” she said of Bauer.

Defense attorney Scott Kamin in his opening statement contended Legghette didn’t know Bauer was a police officer. He described Legghette as a “street hustler” who had gone downtown to meet a woman and was rushing to get back to his neighborhood to sell drugs. Kamen said Legghette sensed someone was chasing him, but didn’t know who or why because Bauer was wearing a coat over his uniform. The officer ran after Legghette and pushed him down the stairwell, then put him in a chokehold.

“If he wasn’t being choked, he wouldn’t use the gun, but unfortunately things happened the way they happened,” Kamin said. “What Mr. Legghette did in firing at this guy who’s choking him, I mean, it was reasonable.”

Legghette was arrested after he ran out of the stairwell with a gun in his pocket.

Prior to opening statements, Judge Erica Reddick denied motions to have the charges dismissed and for a change of venue.