A Chicago police officer found at fault by the city's police watchdog for a teen's fatal shooting has been involved in two other shootings, half a dozen lawsuits and more than 25 complaints, records show.
Over a recent four-year period, in fact, Officer Brandon Ternand was among about a dozen officers that had amassed the most complaints within the 12,000-strong police force.
In its 43-page ruling made public Thursday night, the called the officer's shooting of 15-year-old Dakota Bright once in the back of the head during a foot chase "unprovoked and unwarranted."
On learning of IPRA's findings, a spokeswoman for Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx said Friday that the office would take another look at the shooting. In 2013, the office, then led by State's Attorney Anita Alvarez, decided not to prosecute the officer.
"In light of IPRA's recently released report, the Office plans to review the case to ensure that the matter has been thoroughly reviewed in light of all available information," Foxx's spokeswoman, Tandra Simonton, said in an emailed statement.
Chicago police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said Ternand, a 10-year veteran, remains on active duty while the department reviews IPRA's findings.
Reached by telephone Friday, Ternand declined to comment, but in a statement issued by the head of the police union that represents rank-and-file officers blasted IPRA's findings as politically motivated and questioned the competence of its investigators.
"We believe the decision by IPRA to rule this incident unjustified is certainly arbitrary, based more on political considerations than the rule of evidence," said Fraternal Order of Police President Kevin Graham. "A gun was recovered. This incident also cries out for the fact that IPRA should have personnel qualified to conduct shooting investigations, which it currently does not have."
IPRA did not identify the officer, citing union contract prohibitions, but other records obtained by the Tribune through requests show Ternand shot Bright in the South Side's Park Manor neighborhood on the afternoon of Nov. 8, 2012.
The IPRA report said that Bright was not armed when he was fatally shot but may have tossed a gun during the chase. Officers recovered a 22-caliber revolver in a front yard by where the chase began, IPRA said.
The IPRA report disclosed that a woman witnessed the shooting, called 911 and reported that an officer had shot someone in the back.
"The fact that this statement was made contemporaneously with the actual event weighs in favor of its reliability, as does the fact it is corroborated by the physical evidence," IPRA said.
The records obtained by the Tribune show that Ternand was among 11 officers in the department that amassed the most complaints between mid-December 2010 and mid-December 2014.
Over that four-year period, he received 23 complaints for allegations ranging from excessive force to illegal searches , according to the records. Not a single complaint resulted in Ternand being disciplined.
In all, Ternand has received 26 complaints over his career, the records show.
FOP officials commonly point out that officers who work in high-crime areas often are hit with complaints they allege to be false. Ternand has worked in violence-plagued parts of the South and West sides throughout his career.
Ternand has also been named in six federal lawsuits alleging civil rights violations in addition to the suit by Bright's family filed in Cook County Circuit Court. Records show that the city has paid out about $1.1 million overall in litigation involving Ternand, including $925,000 last year to settle the lawsuit by Bright's mother.
According to the records, Ternand has fired shots while on duty on three separate occasions — all within an approximately two-year period.
In August 2012, about three months before Bright's shooting, Ternand and another officer fired at two men in the 6700 block of Blackstone Avenue. Ternand fired three shots but didn't hit anyone, according to the records.
In October 2014, Ternand shot three times at a 16-year-old in the 6600 block of South Kenwood Avenue but missed, the records show.
The ruling by IPRA on Thursday marked a rare decision finding a Chicago police officer at fault for use of force. Since the court-ordered release in late 2015 of video showing an officer shoot teenager Laquan McDonald 16 times sparked heated protests, political turmoil and promises of systemic change, IPRA has found five shootings — including Bright's — to be unjustified uses of force. By contrast, in the eight years before that, the agency investigated hundreds of shootings but found only two to be unjustified.
Ternand and his partner, along with a second police unit, had responded to a call of a burglary in progress at about 3:30 p.m. on Nov. 8, 2012, but the officers found no trouble and began to leave the area when they saw Bright walking toward them in an alley.
The officers claimed Bright held a gun in his right hand, looked toward the officers and took off running while tucking the handgun in his waist.
Ternand gave chase on foot as Bright ran through backyards and jumped fences.
Ternand later said he opened fire as he saw the teen stumble, reach toward his waist and turn in his direction.
Ternand, identified by IPRA only as Officer A, had told detectives at the scene of the shooting that he spotted a dark-colored handgun in Bright's hand on first seeing him in an alley. But IPRA noted that when his partner called in the description of the fleeing teen to dispatchers at the Office of Emergency Management and Communications, he never said the suspect was armed, only that he was "holdin' his left side."
"The fact that Officer A claims to have seen (Bright) wield the firearm in this manner and failed to ensure that this information was reported to OEMC to inform his fellow officers lacks credibility," IPRA said.
IPRA also found that Ternand gave inconsistent accounts of what he saw Bright doing with his hands as he fled. Ternand later said he saw Bright reaching for his waist, which IPRA called "an important justification" for Ternand's belief that the teen was armed. That made it all the more surprising, though, that Ternand failed to mention that detail when he first spoke to detectives at the shooting scene, IPRA said.
The civilian witness said she didn't see Bright reaching for anything on his waist because "he was runnin' so fast." She also said that "I think you could see his boxers" — leading IPRA to suggest he might have just been pulling his pants up, not reaching for a gun, as he cleared fences while being chased.
IPRA also took issue with Ternand's claim that after scaling the last fence, Bright reached toward his waist area and started turning toward the officer. "This lacks credibility," said IPRA, noting that Bright was already two city lots away — about 50 to 55 feet — from Ternand.
Given that it turned out that Bright had no gun when he was shot, IPRA said, it was unlikely that the teen would have made a gesture toward the officer, particularly since he was likely pulling away from the officer during the foot chase.
In addition, IPRA pointed out that Bright was shot in the back of his head, calling that detail "another important piece of verifiable evidence that undermines the plausibility of Officer A's account of the events."
"This evidence suggests that (Bright) was facing away from the officer when he was shot," IPRA said.
When asked to explain how Bright could have been shot in the back of the head, Ternand said he guessed that the teen turned his head back the "split second" after he fired. But IPRA said that conflicted with Ternand's consistent claim he fired at Bright as he began to turn toward him.
IPRA pointed to other inconsistencies as well. Ternand said he saw Bright reach into his waist, yet the officer acknowledged the teen was facing away from him as he fled, making "it difficult for the officers to see what his hands were doing in front of his body," IPRA said.
IPRA concluded that Ternand's use of deadly force was "objectively unreasonable" by a preponderance of the evidence.
"IPRA relies upon the inconsistencies in Officer A's statements, contravening physical evidence and eyewitness testimony to determine that Officer A was unreasonable in his belief that (Bright) presented an immiment threat of death or bodily harm to the officer, necessating the use of deadly force," IPRA said.
Chicago Tribune's Todd Lighty and Dan Hinkel contributed.