Home surveillance footage shows off-duty police officer shooting autistic teen without any provocation
Sergeant Khalil Muhammad had claimed he had shot Ricardo Hayes because the teen was about to pull a gun. However, video evidence proved that the the claim was false.
Video footage of a 2017 incident involving the shooting of a teenager refutes the Chicago Police's previous assertion that it was an armed confrontation. Released by the Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA), the grainy home security video shows Sergeant Khalil Muhammad shooting then-18-year-old Ricardo Hayes as he walked on a footpath in the city's South Side.
According to the Guardian, Hayes, who suffers from autism, had wandered away from his home at around 5 a.m. in the morning on August 13, 2017. The video opens with the teen running along a sidewalk before abruptly coming to a stop and turning around as Muhammad pulls up in his car.
Hayes can be seen taking a few steps towards the vehicle before gunshots ring out in the neighborhood. Muhammad had shot the 18-year-old, who was unarmed, twice, once in the chest and once in the arms. But despite his wounds, the youth managed to run away from the scene and make it to safety.
In one the audio files released pertaining to the incident, the officer can be heard telling a Chicago Fire Department Dispatcher that he "had to shoot" because the teen was "about to pull a gun." That claim was proven false almost immediately when Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said that Hayes did not have a gun on him.
The incident has parallels to that of the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald by another Chicago police officer, Jason Van Dyke, in November 2014. Van Dyke had claimed that he had shot McDonald because the teen had tried to stab him, but similarly, video evidence showed that he had posed no threat. Van Dyke was convicted of second-degree murder and aggravated battery over the shooting earlier this month.
In a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), his caretaker had notified the police about his running away from home, and told them that he was autistic and had developmental disabilities. It also said that the teen "was standing almost perfectly still, facing Officer Muhammad's truck, with his hands at his sides" when he was shot.
In a statement addressing the shooting, Karen Sheley of the ACLU of Illinois said in a statement, "As a teenager with disabilities, Ricky was at a heightened risk for police violence. Thankfully, he survived - but he should never have been shot." She also said that "the video shows both that there was no justification for the officer to shoot him and that initial stories told by CPD officials about the shooting - that the 'encounter escalated' - were false."
Despite the unnecessary use of force, COPA spokesman Ephraim Eaddy said that the Cook County State Attorney's Office will not be prosecuting the sergeant. However, police department spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said that the officer will be questioned on why he opened fire from inside his SUV — something officers are trained to do only if there is an imminent threat.
Guglielmi also said that Muhammad had not received training on how to handle people with mental health issues — something that the department had mandated following a 2015 incident where an officer had fatally shot a teenager suffering from an episode as well as a 55-year-old innocent bystander — at the time he shot Hayes. He said that the sergeant was off-duty at the time and could not have known about either the 911 call or Hayes' autism. He had that the officer would be placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the COPA investigation.
(Warning, distressing content) The video of Muhammad shooting Hayes unprovoked.