Chicago police officer Marco Proano was convicted of violating the civil rights of victims and sentenced to five years in federal prison for shooting at teenagers in a stolen car who had been pulled over for speeding.
“Mr. Proano was not maintaining the ‘thin blue line’ that separates us from anarchy, and chaos and violence,” U.S. District Judge Gary Feinerman said, according to the Chicago Tribune. “He was bringing the chaos and violence. He was the source of it.”
In December 2013, officers pulled the vehicle over for speeding, and then determined that the vehicle had been stolen.
They called for backup, which is when Proano and his partner arrived on the scene.
Dash cam footage showed that Proano pulled his gun out as soon as he got out of his car and fired 16 shots at the teenagers’ vehicle in approximately nine seconds.
The car was stopped when Proano arrived, and began to reverse once the officer pointed his gun into the vehicle. Proano opened fire, and continued shooting even after the car came to a stop after backing into a light pole.
None of the teens were killed, but two were injured by the gunshots.
What does it mean?
Proano was the first Chicago police officer to face federal charges for an on-duty shooting in more than 15 years.
Some legal experts think this conviction may signal a change in the way law enforcement officers are held accountable.
“Another thing that I think is critically important: Juries are educated about police, in general, these days,” Northwestern law professor and lawyer at the school’s MacArthur Justice Center Sheila Bevi explained to Chicago Magazine. “The culture of racism and the lack of accountability is something that is well known to anybody who reads the papers.”
Others draw a distinction between a civil rights conviction and the homicide-related charges that have sparked so much controversy over the past few years, and caution that this case is unique and doesn’t represent a wider shift.
“The elements of the crime are different in these federal cases than in the state court cases,” said Phil Stinson, a professor of criminology at Bowling Green State University, to Vice News. “Also, I think it is important to note that a federal jury trial in a U.S. District Court pulls jurors from a multi-county area and that might make a difference.”
Stories like this can’t be separated from the violent context they take place in.
As of Nov. 16, there had been 604 killings in Chicago in 2017 — and that actually represents a 12 percent decline from the previous year.
According to The Washington Post, six people have been killed by police in Chicago in 2017, and all but one of those people was fleeing and/or carrying a weapon at the time.