WHEATON – DuPage County prosecutors have opted not to file charges against a West Chicago police officer who fired shots which struck a man in the backseat of a car that the officer, while off-duty, had pursued onto Fermilab property.
DuPage County State’s Attorney Robert Berlin said in a statement released Friday that, after investigating the February incident, his office believes the officer, who remains unidentified, was “acting in the line of duty” and the officer was justified to fire into the vehicle, as he believed his life was in jeopardy.
“Based on the results of an incredibly thorough investigation, it is my conclusion that the people would not be able to meet their burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt that the officer involved in this incident committed a crime,” Berlin said in the statement. “As a result, my office will not be taking any action against the officer.”
The state’s attorney’s decision stems from an incident that occurred Feb. 18.
According to a synopsis of the incident provided by Berlin’s office, the West Chicago officer was on his way home following the end of his shift on Feb. 18 when he saw a vehicle sideswipe another vehicle on southbound Route 58 in West Chicago.
The vehicle that initiated the contact then continued on Route 59 “at a high rate of speed,” the synopsis said.
The off-duty officer then pursued, and eventually pulled alongside the alleged offending vehicle while stopped at Route 59 and Mack Road.
The officer then identified himself as a police officer and got out of his vehicle to record the license plate number of the other vehicle.
The suspect vehicle then fled. The officer pursued, and reported the pursuit to public safety dispatchers by phone.
The suspect vehicle eventually “drove through a manned security gate at Fermilab without stopping or slowing down,” before later coming to a stop on Eola Road where it dead-ends near Butterfield Road.
The officer pursued onto Fermilab property, identified himself to Fermilab security officers, and stopped about 300 yards from the suspect vehicle near the entrance of the dead-end street, the state’s attorney’s report said.
But the suspect vehicle then turned around and drove toward the police officer, the state’s attorney’s report said, and continued despite the officer’s attempts to wave his badge over his head and yell at the vehicle to stop.
When the vehicle did not stop, the officer pulled his weapon and fired at the vehicle. The state’s attorney’s report said the officer “believed the vehicle was trying to hit him.”
One of the shots went through the trunk of the suspect vehicle and struck Juan Carlos Ruiz, of Cicero, who was sitting in the back seat of the suspect vehicle. Ruiz filed a federal lawsuit in March against the officer and the city of West Chicago over the incident.
But Berlin’s office has said that lawsuit would have no bearing on its investigation into the incident.
Berlin said the officer’s actions indicated that, while he was off-duty, he was acting in a lawful manner consistent with his job.
And he said a key factor in his decision arose from his belief that the state, if it brought charges against the officer, would need to prove that the officer was “unreasonable” in believing that the suspect vehicle was being intentionally driven at him.