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Jury Rules Cop Shot His Best Friend, Orders City To Pay $44.7M

By Emma G. Gallegos in News on Oct 27, 2017 3:50PM

Patrick Kelly's arrest report (Chicago Police Department)
A federal jury ruled that a Chicago police officer shot his best friend in the head and ordered Chicago to pay the victim $44.7 million.

Michael D. LaPorta was shot in the head and paralyzed in 2010 after a night of drinking with CPD officer Patrick Kelly and his coworkers. "I got justice," he told the Chicago Sun-Times after the jury verdict.

Juror Andrea Diven told the Sun-Times that the jury's verdict was meant to send a message to Chicago police: "You cannot get away with this if you’re a police officer in the city of Chicago."

The jury found the city responsible for not having an adequate "early warning system" that would alert the department to problem police officers. Before the LaPorta shooting, Kelly had 19 complaints registered against him in his six years in the department. Since then, he has had eight complaints lodged against him, alleging racial bias, domestic violence and battery. In one case, the city has had to pay out $500,000 to a pregnant woman he tased in 2013 who suffered a miscarriage. In another case, in which a man accused Kelly of making a false arrest, the city was ordered to pay out $100,000 , according to the Chicago Tribune. Kelly was stripped of his police powers this month because of what was revealed during the LaPorta trial.

However, the jury did not say whether the department had a "code of silence." Diven told the Sun-Times that nine members of the jury found the code existed and they debated the point for two days, but there was one holdout. On the point of whether Kelly had pulled the trigger, the jury debated only 20 minutes, jury foreman Michelle Fifer told the Sun-Times.

What happened that night of the shooting was unclear, in part because LaPorta was unable to speak for months after the shooting. Kelly claimed that LaPorta shot himself in a suicide attempt. But LaPorta's family immediately pushed back on that story, and LaPorta did, too, once he regained his ability to speak.

The evidence seemed to corroborate LaPorta's side of the story. Kelly claimed that LaPorta shot himself in with his left hand toward the back of his head, and that Kelly tried to wrest the gun away. But LaPorta was an experienced shooter who always shot with his right. No fingerprints were found on the gun.

The city is expected to appeal. Bill McCaffrey, a spokesman for the city’s law department, told the Sun-Times, "We are disappointed in the jury’s verdict, and, as we argued in this case, taxpayers should not be responsible for an off-duty officer’s purely private actions."