No charges against West Chicago cop in Fermi Lab shooting of teen

Tribune reporter

An off-duty West Chicago police officer who shot a Cicero teen on the grounds of Fermi Lab following an alleged hit-and-run accident will not face criminal charges after DuPage County authorities determined the officer had reason to believe his life was in danger.

The shooting occurred Feb. 18 after a Honda in which the 17-year-old victim was a passenger allegedly sideswiped another vehicle on Illinois Route 59, according to a written statement from DuPage County State’s Attorney Robert Berlin that was released Friday.

The officer, who had just gone off-duty, witnessed the accident, Berlin said.

He caught up with the car at an intersection a short time later and identified himself as a police officer, but the driver of the Honda, a 17-year-old female, sped off and fled down a dead-end road on Fermi Lab property near Batavia, Berlin said.

The officer followed and got out to approach the cornered vehicle, waving his badge over his head as the Honda drove toward him. When the driver did not stop, he opened fire, striking Juan Carlos Ruiz, who was sitting in the back seat, the statement said.

Ruiz was hospitalized and later released.
Berlin said the officer called 911 prior to the shooting to report the fleeing Honda, and also identified himself as a police officer to a security guard at Fermi Lab as he followed the teens.

His behavior showed that he was acting as a police officer, even though he was not on duty at the time, Berlin said.

The driver of the Honda was cited for driving without a valid license and charged with leaving the scene of an accident, a misdemeanor.

The officer has been on administrative leave since the shooting and will remain so while West Chicago Police determine whether they will pursue disciplinary action against him, according to news release from the department.

Ruiz and his five young friends who were in the car with him filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against West Chicago.

In the lawsuit, they allege it was the officer who sideswiped their vehicle while they were on their way home from a party, and that the officer chased them down and opened fire in anger.

The suit said Ruiz was struck in the back.

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