Judge finds two Chicago police officers not guilty in on-duty Pilsen shooting


A judge on Thursday found two Chicago police officers not guilty of unjustifiably shooting an unarmed man in Pilsen in July of 2022.

Cook County Judge Lawrence Flood handed down the verdict in front of a courtroom packed with police and other supporters of the officers just days before he is set to retire on Saturday.

“I find both officers acted within reason in firing their weapons under these particular circumstances,” Flood said.

Christopher Liakopoulos, 44, and Ruben Reynoso, 43, were charged with two counts of aggravated battery with a firearm and two counts of official misconduct, all felonies.

Liakopoulos has been with the department since 2001 and Reynoso since 2003.

Cook County prosecutors alleged that Liakopoulos and Reynoso were not in danger and had no reason to fear for their lives when they fired on Miguel Medina, a now 24-year-old Addison man who was injured in the shooting in the 1000 block of West 18th Street around 7 a.m. on July 22, 2022.

Medina was unarmed, though he was with a teen who had a gun and subsequently shot at the officers after Medina was shot, prosecutors said.

In a two day bench trial at the Leighton Criminal Court Building, prosecutors showed surveillance video that they said depicted the officers firing at Medina while he raised a hand to them, with his other hand holding a wine bottle. They proffered department reports in which the officers lied, saying they were fired upon first, prosecutors alleged.

Defense attorneys, though, argued that Medina and the teen approached the officers wearing masks in a “coordinated ambush.”

“The victim in today’s case was unarmed, and when the defendants fired at that unarmed victim with his hands in the air as he turned away, that shooting was unjustified,” said Assistant State’s Attorney Alyssa Janicki during opening arguments last week.

The officers, investigators with the major accidents squad, were driving to the police academy when Medina and the group he was with caught their attention, prosecutors said. In an unmarked sedan, the officers passed the group and then slowly reversed back toward them.

Medina testified that he thought the car carried gang members. He said he and the teen discussed whether they should approach the car, before they ultimately decided to walk toward it. Surveillance video shows Medina putting one hand up, with the wine bottle in the other, before he was shot and fell to the ground.

Prosecutors argued that Medina realized the officers weren’t a threat and put his hand up in a wave to indicate he likewise wasn’t a threat. They said the teen — who later exchanged gunfire with the officers — turned to run away as officers fired the first shots, per the video.

The officers’ attorneys argued that the group was “obsessed” with guns, and contended that Medina originally carried the gun, then passed it to the teen right before the shooting.

“They were faced with a deadly threat, and their actions were a reasonable use of deadly force,” said attorney Tim Grace during opening arguments.


© 2023 Chicago Tribune

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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