Chicago officer pleads not guilty to civil rights charges

CHICAGO (AP) - The attorney for a Chicago police officer accused of using unreasonable force for firing at a car and wounding two teenagers said Thursday his client was justified in the shooting.

Marco Proano, 41, pleaded not guilty to two counts of civil rights violations in U.S. District Court and was released on his own recognizance. Dashcam video shows that in December 2013, Proano fired his handgun multiple times into the vehicle occupied by the teens as it backed away and posed no apparent threat. The car was pulled over for speeding.

Video of the shooting was obtained by The Chicago Reporter from former Cook County Judge Andrew Berman, who heard a criminal case involving one of the teens. Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan cited the video in her request for a U.S. Justice Department civil rights probe of the Chicago Police Department.

Defense attorney Daniel Herbert said the shooting was justified by department training as well as state law, which he says allows an officer to use deadly force if he believes the target poses a threat to someone else. Herbert said the police department changed its regulations regarding firing into a moving vehicle a year after the shooting involving Proano.

"They're changing the rules way after the game has been finished," Herbert said. "He has to be judged upon what the training and policy was in place at the time."

During Thursday's hearing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Georgia Alexakis asked Judge Gary Feinerman to order Proano to surrender his gun and give up his FOID card as a condition of his bail.

Herbert argued he should be able to keep his firearm owner's identification card, saying that if revoked Proano would be placed on unpaid status with the police department.

"He has three young kids at home and a wife that he is taking care of, and (losing a paycheck) would have a devastating impact on his family," Herbert said.

Feinerman said he'll rule on that issue next week.

Chicago's Independent Police Review Authority last month recommended the police department fire Proano. The department is reviewing the recommendation. The teenagers who were shot have settled a lawsuit against the city for $360,000.

In 2011, Proano fatally shot a 19-year-old man after he and other officers allegedly scuffled with him outside a party.

Proano received an award for valor in connection with the 2011 shooting and the Independent Police Review Authority found it was justified. A jury awarded the family of the dead man $3.5 million in a lawsuit, but a Cook County judge overturned it.

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