Officer Gildardo Sierra has been with the Chicago Police Department for nine years ago. But this year has no doubt been the most turbulent. So far in 2011, Sierra has shot three people in the line of duty, two of those shootings resulting in death. Now, Sierra is under investigation and many are wondering why he wasn’t taken off the streets sooner.
The final straw was the latest shooting, that of Flint Farmer. Farmer was shot twice before falling face down in the street. A police dash cam shows Sierra walking up to Farmer, circling him as he lay, and firing three more times into his back. Farmer was unarmed.
The police were called on Farmer for allegedly assaulting his girlfriend and child. He was chased and a witness heard the police yell, “Don’t do it” before gunfire erupted. Farmer was only holding a cell phone.
Sierra maintained that he feared for his life, believing Farmer was armed. But was Sierra traumatized? Perhaps jittery after already shooting two people and a dog in the past six months.
In January, Sierra shot and killed a known drug dealer who refused to exit his vehicle after a stop. The suspect began dragging an officer with his car when Sierra and another opened fire. This suspect was armed, with a car and also with a gun under the driver’s seat.
The second shooting involved a man who pointed his weapon at officers, forcing Sierra and his partner to shoot. He lived and was sentenced to one year in prison for assault on a police officer.
All three shootings took place in Englewood and West Englewood, two of the most crime ridden areas in the city. From January to September there were 43 murders, 78 sexual assaults, and 753 robberies in that district, according to the Tribune.
The department admittedly does not track officer involved shootings. After an investigation, whose integrity is questionable, the issue is dropped and the officer returns to business as usual.
In this particular case, the police superintendent Garry McCarthy says there is a big problem and that Sierra should have never been on the streets following the first two shootings.
All three shootings are under investigation by the Independent Police Review Authority, an independent city agency tasked with looking into police shootings such as this. Also, the FBI is investigating the Englewood area for civil rights violations but they do not say whether or not the Sierra shootings are involved.
At first glance it seems the first two shootings may have been justified, though the last is highly questionable. When a police officer decides to use the most extreme level of force allowable, deadly force, there really should be no question at all as to its appropriateness. But officers often make questionable calls.
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