CHICAGO — Jurors convicted a Chicago police officer Monday of civil rights violations for firing more than a dozen shots into a car of teenagers in 2013, wounding two.
Marco Proano, 42, of Chicago, was charged with two counts of depriving civil rights by using unreasonable force. Jurors returned with guilty verdicts on both counts after deliberating for only a few hours. Proano faces up to 10 years in prison on each count when sentenced Nov. 20.
Proano fired at the car as it backed up after being stopped for speeding on Dec. 22, 2013, wounding one teen in a hip and heel, and the other in the shoulder.
During closing arguments earlier Monday, a prosecutor likened the officer to a cowboy, describing how Proano got out of his patrol car and began shooting almost immediately. The prosecution relied on dashcam video of the incident, playing it several times for jurors during the weeklong trial in U.S. District Court in Chicago.
“He pulled his gun out, held it to one side and aimed it at those kids to send a message and to show who was in charge,” Erika Csicsila said.
She scoffed at Proano’s claim that he opened fire, in part, to protect one of the teens who was hanging out of a car window.
“You don’t shoot at someone to save their life,” she said.
Defense lawyer Daniel Herbert said his client was faced with a “split second” decision, influenced by the fact that he was in a high-crime area and that another officer had allegedly mentioned a gun; it was a BB gun that had fallen out of the car.
Herbert also represents Jason Van Dyke, who is awaiting trial in state court for murder after shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times as the black teenager appeared to walk from police holding a folded knife. A video released in 2015 of McDonald shooting’s prompted weeks of protests.
McDonald’s case also led to a damning Justice Department civil rights report on Chicago’s 12,000-officer force. It found deep-rooted civil rights violations by police, including a tendency to use excessive force even when there is no actual threat and a “pervasive cover-up culture” among officers.
Chicago’s police review board has already recommended Proano’s firing, noting the dashcam video shows him firing toward the person in the car he said he was protecting. Chicago also settled a civil lawsuit with the injured teenagers for $360,000.
This story has been corrected to say Proano faces a maximum prison sentence of 10 years, not five, on each count.