Kelvin Lett’s boss ordered him to falsely report that a gun was planted on an officer involved shooting victim. High profile cases involving police shootings had locals on edge and activists were howling for blood.
Kelvin Lett, an internal investigator assigned to the Independent Police Review Authority, which watches over cops in Chicago, Illinois, alleges that his supervisor ordered him to lie on an official report. Not to cover up for a fellow officer as one might expect, but to throw him under a political bus.
Some locals wonder if it was an intentional attempt to stir up race riots. Tensions at the time were already at an all-time high in the wake of two high profile incidents.
According to the lawsuit filed by the officer’s attorney over the weekend, In June of 2016, IPRA administrator Sharon Fairley unmistakably ordered the veteran investigator “to lie in his reports that a gun was planted on the victim by the officers involved in the shooting.”
There was no way Lett would agree to such nonsense. “Lett protested and refused to do so because he had no evidence to support that finding.” Evidence wasn’t necessary, Fairly suggested. He just needed to have the proper attitude.
“He had to have a more ‘devious mind’ to do this job,” the paperwork states, “and that he needed to lie about his findings in such a way to reflect that the officer shooting was unjustified.”
The liberal administrator had only been Lett’s supervisor for about six months. They got off to a bad start when introduced in December, 2015. Soon after her appointment she “extended her hand for a handshake only to retract it once she realized who she was meeting,” court documents explain. Then the already strained relationship took a nosedive.
Refusing to falsely testify that a fellow officer planted a gun to justify a shooting cost Lett the job he held since 1997. Within two weeks, the lawsuit relates, “Fairley transferred Lett to janitorial duties.”
After that, Fairly started a witch hunt investigation against Lett, “for allegedly disclosing confidential information.” That led to Lett’s termination from the force in February 2017, when “the investigation concluded Lett violated IPRA’s confidentiality policy.”
Lett fought the disciplinary action and won in arbitration, but that was nowhere near the end of his difficulties. They assigned him to the dreaded Freedom of Information Act office, known as “Siberia” to all government officials but he never even was allowed to clock in.
Though the arbitrator ordered Lett’s record expunged, he “was never actually allowed to return to work and AFSCME never tried to enforce the arbitrator’s ruling.” Lett was placed on administrative leave with pay simply as more retaliation “for his refusal to provide false testimony.”
The lawsuit names several entities including the city of Chicago, the Civilian Office of Police Accountability, and the Independent Police Review Authority.
Lett’s union, AFSCME Local 654 along with its local branch, Council 31 were named because of their failure to enforce the arbitration ruling.
Lori Lightfoot, the former president of the Police Board features prominently in the lawsuit but isn’t named as a defendant. She left the office to challenge “Mayor Rahm Emanuel for his job.” She demonstrated her obvious bias by telling then-IPRA head Scott Ando that she “wanted to fire that mother[profanity] Lett.”
Reports about the lawsuit don’t mention the underlying case, but there are enough similarities with an incident that happened involving Ronald Johnson III in October, 2014 that it looks like a very good candidate.
Police took a 911 call of shots fired. Patrolman George Hernandez exited an unmarked police car and chased the suspect on foot. Dash-cam video only shows the five muzzle flashes from the officer’s extended arm firing in the dark, “as Johnson runs out of view of the camera and collapses.”
When the State’s Attorney for Cook County announced no charges would be filed in the Johnson shooting because there was evidence which “showed Johnson was carrying a gun when he was shot,” the family’s lawyer claimed it was planted.
Attorney Michael Oppenheimer was convinced “that the gun was planted by police who tailored their statements to fit what was on the video so the shooting would be justified.” Johnson’s mother wanted Hernandez charged with murder. The only one standing in the way of a big prospective payoff was the IPRA.
As the investigation progressed, considerable evidence was presented that the gun recovered on the scene was clearly Johnson’s. If this was the case Lett was harassed over, he was fully justified in his decision.
Johnson was in the backseat of a Chevrolet after leaving a party with three others. Suddenly someone shot out their back window. The driver testified he heard “a semi-automatic handgun being cocked in the back seat where Johnson was sitting.”
Police found a bullet matching Johnson’s gun in the back seat of the car. Johnson was spotted with a gun in his hand as everyone scattered from the car.
Johnson was scuffling with another officer as Hernandez got out of his cruiser, weapon drawn. the suspect took off on foot again, toward another police unit, and still with the gun in his hand. Hernandez fired. When he reached the collapsed man, he removed the gun from Johnson’s hand so he wouldn’t be shot and stuck it in his own waistband. By then, an “angry crowd” was gathering.
Later analysis would show the nine-millimeter handgun had Johnson’s DNA all over it and 12 live rounds.
Unlike the McDonald shooting, which the FBI took jurisdiction of for investigation, prosecutors “had to rely on IPRA,” which would have been Kelvin Lett’s unit.