Chicago, IL – The Chicago Police Board voted on Thursday to fire a veteran officer more than 11 years after he shot a friend in the head in an off-duty incident and lied about it.
Chicago Police Officer Patrick Kelly and his old friend and former college roommate, Michael LaPorta, were hanging out at Officer Kelly’s apartment in the early morning hours of Jan. 12, 2010 after a night of bar hopping and drinking together, the Chicago Tribune reported.
Officer Kelly called 911 at 4:35 a.m. and told the dispatcher that LaPorta had killed himself.
But while he was one the phone with 911, he realized his friend was still alive and breathing, the Chicago Tribune reported.
When paramedics arrived, Officer Kelly freaked out when he was told he couldn’t ride to the hospital in the ambulance with LaPorta.
Officers had to take him into custody and arrest him, and even then, he tried to kick out the windows on the police vehicle they put him in, the Chicago Tribune reported.
Officer Kelly told investigators at the time that he and LaPorta were talking when his friend suddenly got up, went and got the officer’s service weapon from his bedside table, and shot himself, WBBM reported.
LaPorta barely survived a gunshot wound to the left side of the back of his head.
The bullet, which is still lodged in LaPorta’s head, pierced his skull and ricocheted around his brain, leaving him with catastrophic injuries that require 24-hour care, the Chicago Tribune reported.
He wasn’t able to communicate with detectives or answer any questions about how he was shot.
Officer Kelly was given a 60-day suspension in connection with the incident that included off-duty drunkenness, failing to secure his weapon, and conduct unbecoming an officer on the night LaPorta was shot, the Chicago Tribune reported.
But police believed the story about LaPorta’s failed suicide attempt based on what Officer Kelly told them.
LaPorta remained unable to walk, read, or live independently, and it wasn’t until 2016 that he was able to tell investigators what had really happened the night he was shot, WBBM reported.
Attorneys for LaPorta sued in 2017 and won a record-breaking $44.7 million award against the city of Chicago for its failure to discipline police officers, giving them the sense they could act badly with impunity, the Chicago Tribune reported.
The jury said when they handed down the verdict that they believe Officer Kelly had shot LaPorta.
The U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the jury’s verdict in February, WBBM reported.
A two-judge panel said LaPorta’s case against the city was “deeply flawed” because Officer Kelly wasn’t on duty or acting in the capacity of a police officer when he shot LaPorta.
The appellate judges tossed the jury’s decision and said the Chicago Police Department could not be held liable for the behavior of officers off-duty, the Chicago Tribune reported.
LaPorta’s attorneys have said they planned to appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.
But it was the filing of the lawsuit that triggered the Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA) to take a second look at the 2017 incident, WBBM reported.
Investigators determined that Officer Kelly had pulled the trigger the night that LaPorta was shot, and lied about it ever since.
At the time, then-Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said he wanted to fire Officer Kelly but the officer couldn’t be disciplined again for the same incident, WBBM reported.
A 2017 investigation by the Chicago Tribune that four years ago, Officer Kelly had already been twice declared mentally unfit for duty, twice arrested, and had received about 20 misconduct complaints.
He had also been accused of beating a girlfriend, according to that report.
On June 18, the Chicago Police Board voted 8-0 to fire Officer Kelly for shooting LaPorta and for lying to investigators about it, the Chicago Tribune reported.
“(Kelly’s) actions in (the) shooting of Michael LaPorta in the head were reckless, violent, and unjustified,” the disciplinary board’s 15-page decision read. “The Board finds that returning (Kelly) to his position as a police officer, in which he would be armed and authorized to use deadly force, poses an unacceptable risk to the safety of the public.”
Officer Kelly can appeal the Chicago Police Board’s ruling to the Cook County Circuit Court, but he attorney did not indicate what next step was planned, the Chicago Tribune reported.