The Chicago Police Board fired two Chicago police officers on March 19 for shooting at 18-year-old Paul O’Neal. Officers Michael Coughlin Jr. and his partner Jose Torres were both fired. O’Neal died during the altercation after he was shot in the back by Chicago Police Department Officer Jose Diaz. Diaz was suspended for six months.
O’neal was driving a stolen car in 2016 that was speeding away from a south Chicago traffic stop when he was shot at by Coughlin and Torres. O’neal was unarmed. The board voted 8-0 in favor of terminating officers Coughlin and Torres, The Chicago Sun Times reports.
On July 28, 2016, officers tried to pull over a Jaguar convertible that had been reported stolen. Coughlin and Torres opened fire at the car after O’Neal slammed the Jaguar into two police SUVs and sped off down the street. O’neil was not struck by any of the bullets Coughlin and Torres fired.
The car crashed and O’Neal led officers on a foot chase into a backyard, where a third officer, Jose Diaz, opened fire and killed O’neal.
O’neal died of a gunshot wound to the back, according to an autopsy.
The Independent Police Review Authority recommended the officers be fired, saying the pair endangered the lives of civilians and fellow officers when they shot at the moving car on a residential street.
The Independent Police Review Authority ruled that Diaz was justified in the shooting because he thought O’Neal had a gun and fired at police. They recommended Diaz serve a six-month suspension because he didn’t activate his body cam and he allegedly kicked O’Neal after the shooting.
The review board wrote:
By repeatedly firing his weapon at a moving stolen vehicle, Mr. Coughlin broke Police Department rules and endangered the lives of everyone around him, including his own partner and fellow officers as well at the occupants of the stolen vehicle. The use of force was unreasonable and unjustified at all points it occurred.”
Torres testified that he thought O’neil was trying to run him over with the car. Coughlin testified that he fired off nine shots at O’Neal because he wrongly believed the car had run over Torres.
O’Neal’s shooting sparked protests. The Chicago Police Department was already being investigated by the U.S. Justice Department in the wake of the 2014 fatal shooting of black teenager Laquan McDonald by white police officer Jason Van Dyke. Van Dyke was eventually convicted of second-degree murder and is serving a six-year prison term.