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Chicago cop admits drinking before fatal shooting, according to court filing

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Illinois - ~City settles lawsuit with estate of 2011 slaying victim; officer remains on desk duty~

A Chicago police officer involved in a controversial fatal shooting admitted that he drank "multiple" beers before he went to work that night, but the city waited more than five hours to give him a Breathalyzer test, according to a new court filing by an attorney for the slain man's estate.

A video of the incident shows Officer Gildardo Sierra firing three shots into Flint Farmer's back as the Chicago man lay bleeding on a parkway early on June 7, 2011. The incident was the third shooting by Sierra in six months - and the second fatality, records show.

Hours after Thursday's filing, the city settled with Farmer's estate in its civil rights lawsuit. Neither side would disclose the financial terms of the settlement.

The Police Department ruled the Farmer shooting justified, but Superintendent Garry McCarthy later told the Tribune that he considers the case "a big problem" and that the officer involved should not have been on the street given his history of shootings.

Thursday's filing by the attorney for Farmer's estate indicates that Sierra admitted during a psychological evaluation that he drank "multiple beers" before starting the midnight shift on the night Farmer was killed. The psychological report also said that after the incident Sierra "was nervous ... about his then-upcoming mandatory alcohol breath test because he might test positive for alcohol," according to the court filing.

The filing does not say how many beers Sierra purportedly drank or what his blood-alcohol test showed.

Sierra, however, denied consuming any alcohol while being treated at Little Company of Mary Hospital in Evergreen Park shortly after the 1:45 a.m. shooting, according to the filing.

The city waited about 5 hours and 20 minutes after the shooting - and about 9 hours after Sierra's shift began - to administer the alcohol test, the filing said.

The Independent Police Review Authority, the city agency that investigates officer-involved shootings, referred all three incidents to the Cook County state's attorney's office so prosecutors could determine whether the shootings violated state criminal law, IPRA chief Ilana Rosenzweig said Thursday.

A spokeswoman for State's Attorney Anita Alvarez said the investigation is ongoing. The Tribune has reported that the FBI is also investigating the shootings.

The alleged failure to quickly administer a Breathalyzer test to Sierra after Farmer's shooting reflects what has been a problem in the department. A December 2007 Tribune investigation, "Shielded From the Truth," showed that supervisors often waited hours to administer breath tests to officers, both on- and off-duty, raising questions about how aggressively the department investigates shootings involving officers.

Indeed, the Tribune found that department officials sometimes considered these shootings administrative matters and treated the officers with deference rather than matters deserving rigorous scrutiny.

That crucial delay comes at a cost: It allows an officer's blood-alcohol level to drop, sometimes under the legal level of intoxication. That forces prosecutors - if they bring a criminal case - to extrapolate the officer's blood-alcohol content, a move that defense lawyers typically challenge.

The delay in administering a Breathalyzer test also played a major role in the trial earlier this year of Officer Richard Bolling, who was off duty when he struck and killed a 13-year-old boy riding his bicycle in May 2009.

Bolling, who was stopped by police driving the wrong way down a one-way street not far from the crash scene, wasn't given a field sobriety test until about two hours after the crash. Nearly another three hours later, he was given the Breathalyzer and blew a 0.079, just under the state legal limit of 0.08.

According to testimony, a supervisor told other officers to wait to test Bolling until higher-ranking commanders arrived, leaving Bolling to sober up in the back of a police car. Cook County prosecutors alleged that the supervisors gave Bolling preferential treatment.

In January, a jury found him guilty of aggravated DUI, reckless homicide and leaving the scene of a fatal accident. The veteran narcotics officer was sentenced to three years in prison.

Sierra, 32, who joined the department 10 years ago, was stripped of his police powers and has been working at the city's 311 center since the shooting.

He is paid about $75,000 a year, according to 2011 city data.


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Posted on 12/23/2012 9:29 PM | CGB

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