Chicago Police Are In Trouble After Photo Emerges Showing Officers Posing with Black Man Wearing Antlers

Chicago Police Officers Jerome Finnigan, left, and Timothy McDermott with an unknown man in a photo believed to be taken between 1999 and 2003. (Courtesy of Chicago Sun-Times)
Chicago Police Officers Jerome Finnigan, left, and Timothy McDermott with an unknown man in a photo believed to be taken between 1999 and 2003. (Courtesy of Chicago Sun-Times)

The photo shows two white Chicago police officers wielding guns and kneeling next to a black man who is wearing deer antlers on his head while he lays with his stomach to the ground.

The racially charged image prompted the firing of Chicago Police Detective Timothy McDermott well before the photo went public Tuesday, when it was published by the Chicago Sun-Times. The other officer pictured, Jerome Finnigan, had long been terminated from the department, and in 2011 was sentenced to 12 years in federal prison on income tax evasion and murder-for-hire scheme charges.

“This picture is disgusting, and the despicable actions of these two former officers have no place in our police department or in our society,” Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy said in a statement Wednesday.

[Analysis: Fatal shootings by on-duty police officers]

The Chicago Police Department first learned of the photo in 2013. McCarthy said he moved to fire McDermott as soon as he learned of the photo and that he would have fired Finnigan had the former officer still been working for the department.

McDermott is now fighting his firing in court, the Sun-Times reported.

The Chicago Police Board voted 5 to 4 in October to fire McDermott for posing in the photo, which authorities say was taken between Oct. 14, 1999, and July 2, 2003, the Chicago Tribune reported.

From the newspaper:

During the period when the photo was taken, McDermott was assigned to the Special Operations Section, a notorious unit that was disbanded after it was revealed that members had engaged in numerous crimes and civil rights violations from 2002 to 2006. Finnigan, considered the ringleader of the crew, is serving a 12-year federal sentence on SOS-related charges.

McDermott, who was not implicated in the SOS scandal, was charged with violating four department rules and was found guilty of three violations: bringing discredit on the department, disrespecting or maltreating a person on or off duty and unlawful or unnecessary use or display of a weapon, according to the board’s decision.

According to the Sun-Times, federal prosecutors gave the photo to Chicago police. Police department attorneys and McCarthy, who had recommended that McDermott be fired, asked a Cook County Circuit Court judge to keep the photo under seal, arguing that they wanted to protect the identity of the unnamed man in the image, the paper reported.

But the judge unsealed the image in March, the Sun-Times reported:

When the feds confronted Finnigan with the photo, he told them he and McDermott arrested the African American man for having “20 bags of weed” and the man provided them with the rifles, according to court records. The photo was taken in the tactical office of the Harrison Police District on the West Side, Finnigan said.

But the police department’s Bureau of Internal Affairs says it was unable to identify the African-American man in the photo.

Finnigan and McDermott did not file an arrest report involving the man, according to court records.

Following McDermott’s firing, his lawyer, Daniel Herbet, told the Tribune that his client regretted being in the photo. McDermott “jumped” into the picture as a “split-second decision,” Herbet said, adding that his client wasn’t “consciously thinking of what he was doing.”

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Source: Washington Post | 

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