A federal court jury found a veteran Chicago Police officer guilty of using an unreasonable amount of force when he shot 16 times at a car filled with teenagers.
Marco Proano was charged with two civil rights counts in connection with the incident, which occurred on the South Side in December 2013.
H had no visible reaction when the verdicts were read.
Proano, 42, faces up to 20 years in prison when he is sentenced on Nov. 20. He wounded two teens riding in a Toyota Avalon at 95th and LaSalle.
Proano’s trial at the Dirksen Federal Courthouse began last week. Testimony lasted roughly two days, and the officer chose not to testify in his own defense. Jurors began deliberating just after 12:30 p.m. Monday after listening to more than two hours of closing arguments from prosecutors and Proano’s lawyer, Daniel Herbert.
Herbert left the courthouse Monday evening without talking to reporters.
Earlier the defense attorney told jurors his client acted reasonably, and he wondered whether his client should have simply done nothing the night of the shooting. Prosecutors say he instead committed “a gross abuse of the power he’s been given,” leaping out of his squad car “like a cowboy” with his gun held sideways before firing 16 shots over nine seconds at a Toyota which had suddenly reversed.
“The rules don’t change just because you’re on the South Side of Chicago,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Erika Csicsila said.
One teen was wounded in his left hip and right heel. The other suffered a shoulder wound.
Proano is a married father of three born in Ecuador who spent about a decade as a Chicago cop, working primarily in the Roseland neighborhood. A grand jury indicted him a little less than a year ago, and he was suspended without pay from the Chicago Police Department. The Independent Police Review Authority has recommended his firing, and the city settled with the wounded teens for $360,000.
Proano spent Monday morning listening calmly at the defense table to closing arguments, wearing a dark blue suit. He shares a lawyer with Jason Van Dyke, the Chicago police officer charged in state court with the murder of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald.
As the trial kicked off last week, Herbert told jurors that Proano’s sense of duty drew him to 95th and LaSalle on Dec. 22, 2013. There, two fellow officers had already crossed paths with a stolen Toyota packed with at least six teenagers.
By the time Proano arrived, the driver of the car had already fled. A BB gun later fell out of the car, and Proano watched as the car suddenly began to reverse with one teen hanging out of a window. It turned out another teen had lunged forward from the backseat, thrown the car into reverse and pushed the gas pedal with his hands.
What happened next was caught on a police dashcam video.
Proano can be seen in the video stepping forward, holding his gun sideways. Seconds later, he steps backward as the car reverses into view. Proano then lifts his gun again with both hands, upright, and a flash can be seen as he appears to open fire.
Federal prosecutors played the video repeatedly Monday as they argued that every bullet Proano fired was unreasonable. The officer has said he opened fire to protect the teen hanging out the window. But prosecutors said Proano “drew first, shot next” and “tried to justify later.”
“You don’t shoot at someone to save their life,” Csicsila said.
Herbert insisted the shooting lasted no more than four seconds — a conclusion a prosecutor later referred to as “back-of-the-envelope math” — and he pointed to an Illinois law that appeared to justify Proano’s actions that night.
That law says police are justified in using deadly force when they reasonably believe it’s necessary to stop someone from escaping who “is attempting to escape by use of a deadly weapon.”
Herbert argued the Toyota counts as a deadly weapon. But Assistant U.S. Attorney Georgia Alexakis said that still didn’t mean deadly force was “reasonable” and “necessary” under the circumstances.
She also accused Proano of trying to rewrite history — noting that Proano did not say after the shooting that he had been trying to prevent the teens’ escape.