A Cook County judge acquitted a Chicago police officer on Tuesday of two felony charges stemming from a shooting at a busy CTA train station in early 2020.
Nearly three years after she shot an unarmed man, Ariel Roman, at the Grand Red Line station, Cook County Judge Joseph Claps found CPD officer Melvina Bogard, 33, not guilty of aggravated battery and official misconduct.
Claps spent more than ten minutes explaining that his decision was heavily influenced by Roman’s perceived lack of credibility. The judge went so far as to say Roman committed perjury after pointing out several inconsistencies in his sworn statement.
Claps described Roman as having “zero credibility.” “Zero.”
“It is the burden of the state to prove the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, and they have failed to do so,” Claps added.
After Claps announced his verdict, more than a dozen supporters of Bogard briefly erupted, and the judge — who had previously warned against outbursts — quickly ordered sheriff’s deputies to remove those who disobeyed him.
“Obviously, the family is very disappointed over this ruling,” Greg Kulis, one of the attorneys representing Roman in his civil suit against the city, told reporters. “But, in essence, we’re not very surprised.”
Kulis pointed out that Bogard was only charged for the first round she fired on the train platform, not the second.
“The judge only had to look at the first shot, and the second shot wasn’t even presented to the court,” Kulis explained.
Tim Grace, Bogard’s defense attorney, blamed Roman for the shooting.
“I’m not sure how we’ve arrived in our society where citizens believe they don’t have to obey the lawful orders of police officers and law enforcement,” Grace said. “There is a segment of our society that believes, for whatever reason, that you are not required to obey lawful orders issued by law enforcement. Ariel Roman, the offender, dictated how this encounter occurred.”
On February 28, 2020, Roman was riding a northbound Red Line train through downtown. He walked from car to car as the train exited the Loop into River North, in violation of a city ordinance.
Roman’s attorneys previously stated that he was diagnosed with anxiety in 2019, and that he moved around the train to calm his nerves. Claps stated that was false before delivering his verdict on Tuesday. According to police, Roman, now 36, was also carrying a backpack containing an illegal amount of marijuana.
Just hours before, Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Charlie Beck, then-interim superintendent of the Chicago Police Department, announced that an additional 50 officers would be assigned to the CTA’s train lines to combat rising criminal activity on public transportation.
Bogard and her partner, Bernard Butler, were both new to the CPD, having been there for less than three years. When Roman stepped off the train at the Grand Station, the two cops pursued him and confronted him near the bottom of the station platform’s escalator. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Grand station was one of the busiest CTA train lines.
Bogard and Butler, who were already assigned to the CPD’s Mass Transit Unit, attempted to arrest Roman, but he resisted. A passerby recorded the interaction on his cellphone as the officers struggled to take him into custody.
Butler and Roman are seen wrestling on the ground while two stun guns are already on the ground. Roman eventually regained his footing after ignoring repeated orders from both cops to stop resisting arrest. Butler then instructed Bogard to shoot. Bogard fired a shot into Roman’s abdomen after he took a few steps forward.
Bogard then fired another shot at Roman, hitting him in the back as he ran up the escalator toward the station’s main concourse area.
The witness immediately shared the video on social media, and the video quickly went viral before the CPD could issue its first statement about the shooting.
Following the shooting, Roman was charged with resisting arrest and narcotics possession, but the state’s attorney’s office chose not to prosecute Roman at the request of the CPD.
“Given the totality of the circumstances and the department’s significant level of concern about this incident, advocating for these charges would be insensitive,” a CPD spokesman said at the time.
Following the shooting, Butler and Bogard were quickly stripped of their police powers, and Roman promptly filed a civil rights lawsuit against the city and both officers. The case is still pending in federal court in Chicago.
CPD Supt. David Brown filed a slew of administrative charges against Bogard and Butler in April 2021, accusing the two officers of breaking several internal department rules. According to the police board, an evidentiary hearing on those charges will begin next month.