Chicago, IL – A Chicago police officer who allegedly allowed a fellow officer to leave the scene of an assault more than 10 years ago was recently fired over the incident.
The Chicago Police Board voted to fire Officer Jason Burg in an 8-to-1 decision on Dec. 17, 2020, even though a key witness died during the decade it took for the agency to get around to holding a disciplinary hearing, the Chicago Tribune reported.
The board ended up allowing a deposition given by the witness during an earlier federal lawsuit to be considered as evidence, but since the witness is dead, Officer Burg was not able to question him during the disciplinary proceedings.
The incident that led up to the veteran officer’s termination from the force occurred on June 26, 2010, when he was dispatched to a disturbance outside the Pavilion Apartments on North East River Road, the Chicago Tribune reported.
The board relied heavily on the testimony of Heather Rzany, who said she and her then-boyfriend, Luis Cordero, were walking through the complex’s picnic area when a security truck pulled up and told them they needed to leave because the area was closing for the night, the Chicago Tribune reported.
The men in the security truck were later identified as Angel De La Rosa and off-duty Chicago Police Officer Chris Gofron.
The board concluded that Rzany and Cordero agreed to leave and started walking away, but that Officer Gofron suddenly “exited the vehicle, stumbling and carrying a beer bottle,” according to the Chicago Tribune.
“He was yelling and screaming. He showed them his badge,” the board wrote. “He went back to the vehicle and retrieved his gun.”
Cordero put his heads behind his head, at which point Officer Gofron started beating him with the gun, according to the police board.
He then allegedly chased down Rzany, who was screaming, grabbed her by her neck, and shoved the gun into her mouth, the police board claimed.
Rzany managed to use Cordero’s cell phone to call 911, resulting in Officer Burg being dispatched to their location, the Chicago Tribune reported.
According to Officer Burg’s testimony, the alleged suspect fled the scene prior to his arrival.
He said he did not know Officer Gofron personally, and testified the off-duty officer wasn’t even identified as the assault suspect until sometime later, the Chicago Tribune reported.
Officer Burg told the board that when he arrived to the scene, he found Cordero bloodied on the ground.
Rzany, who was talking on a cell phone nearby, even walked away from the area at one point, Officer Burg said.
But Rzany alleged Officer Gofron was still at the scene when Officer Burg arrived, and claimed she heard him tell Officer Gofron to leave.
The police board ruled Officer Burg “gave an inconsistent statement about where Ms. Rzany was standing when he arrived at the scene,” and concluded the testimony he provided during the disciplinary hearing was not credible, the Chicago Tribune reported.
Conversely, the board found Rzany’s testimony to be “credible and convincing,” according to the ruling.
“Her demeanor throughout her testimony was singularly serious and self-contained,” the police board reasoned. “She did not waiver in her recollection of what was clearly a traumatic experience for her and Mr. Cordero.”
The lone dissenting vote was cast by Police Board Member John O’Malley, who wrote in his opinion that the entire scene would have been “too hectic and the environment too chaotic” for Rzany’s claims that she watched Officer Gofron show Officer Burg his badge and heard him tell Officer Gofron to leave to be true, the Chicago Tribune reported.
O’Malley also noted that the department’s investigation into the matter was “essentially completed” in February of 2014, but that Officer Burg wasn’t brought up on disciplinary charges until January of 2019.
In the end, the police board concluded Officer Burg violated several department rules, including allowing Officer Gofron to leave the scene and making “false representations” to the Independent Police Review Authority, which has since been disbanded, the Chicago Tribune reported.
Officer Burg had been on disability or inactive duty since 2015, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Officer Gofron resigned from the department sometime after a federal lawsuit against him and Officer Burg resulted in a $160,000 payout to Cordero and Rzany.