City Witness: Cops Should Not Have Chased Youth Armed With Pistol
An expert witness for the city made the bizarre suggestion during a police board hearing Thursday that an officer should not have chased an offender carrying a pistol in an alley located in an extremely violent gang area of the city.
Testifying in the police board case against Officer Brendan Ternand, who has been stripped in connection with the 2012 fatal shooting of Dakota Bright on the south side, the city’s expert witness, Michael J. Gennaco, suggested that Ternand should not have chased Bright when Ternand and his partner witnessed Bright enter an alley holding a pistol. Bright, wearing gang colors of the Gangster Disciples, immediately fled from Ternand and his partner.
Gennaco works for the OIR Group. He is, according to the company’s website, “a nationally recognized expert on law enforcement reform and accountability systems.”
Ternand and his partner chased Bright while in their police vehicle, westbound out of the alley then northbound on Indiana. In a moment when they could not see Bright, he dumped the pistol in a yard. The gun was recovered. But the pursuing officers still observed him holding his side after he pitched the weapon
Eventually, Ternand exited the vehicle and pursued Bright on foot southbound through several back yards separated by fences. Other officers ultimately boxed Bright into a back yard in which he was unable to flee. Repeatedly failing to obey police commands, Bright suddenly reached into his left side as he turned toward Ternand. The officer fired once, fatally striking Bright in the head.
Superintendent Eddie Johnson ruled earlier that the shooting was justified, but the controversial police oversight agency, COPA, ruled it was unjustified. COPA is also under fire by the FOP for their ruling that another 2015 fatal police shooting of a bat wielding assailant was unjustified. Johnson ruled that that 2015 shooting was justified as well.
The bizarre statement that Ternand should not have engaged in a pursuit of Bright drew scrutiny from FOP attorneys Jim Thompson and Tim Grace during intense cross examination.
How, the attorneys asked, should the police not pursue an armed man, wearing gang colors in a highly violent gang-riddled neighborhood? Isn’t that their job, they asked?
Other aspects of Gennaco’s testimony were also called into question. Gennaco argued the fact that Ternand only fired once was suspicious. Most officers shoot at least two times in such a situation, he claimed.
So Ternand committed misconduct by not firing more times, Grace argued rhetorically.
Other issues emerged during the hearing that questioned the city’s expert. One was the unimpeached statements by Ternand and another officer indicating that while Ternand was pursuing Bright he shouted to another officer that Bright had a gun, a sign that even though Bright had dumped the pistol, Ternand still believed he was armed. Gennaco acknowledged in his testimony that Ternand still believed Bright was armed.
Another key piece of evidence introduced at the hearing was a state police report citing a metal substance on the fired bullet. According to the report, this substance could indicate that the bullet had ricocheted off another object, like a fence, before it struck Bright.
Lastly, the fact that Bright may have dropped a cell phone while hopping the last fence and that he stopped to feel for it was suggested by Ternand’s attorneys. This may account for Bright’s movements that looked as if he were reaching for his gun, they argued.
Testimony continues on Friday.