CPD officer found not guilty in 2020 CTA Red Line shooting in River North

CHICAGO — A Cook County judge on Tuesday acquitted a Chicago police officer of two felony charges brought against her in connection with a shooting at a busy CTA train station in early 2020.

Cook County Judge Joseph Claps found CPD officer Melvina Bogard, 33, not guilty of aggravated battery and official misconduct, almost three years after Bogard shot an unarmed man, Ariel Roman, at the Grand Red Line station.

For more than 10 minutes, Claps explained that his verdict was heavily based on Roman’s perceived lack of credibility. The judge, who pointed to several inconsistencies in Roman’s sworn statement, went as far to say that Roman committed perjury.

“He has zero credibility,” Claps said of Roman. “Zero.”

“It’s the state’s burden to prove the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, [and] they have failed to do it,” Claps added.

More than a dozen supporters of Bogard briefly broke out after Claps announced his verdict, and the judge — who previously warned against outbursts — quickly ordered sheriff’s deputies to remove those who disobeyed him.

Greg Kulis, one of the attorneys representing Roman in his civil suit against the city, told reporters, “Obviously, the family is very disappointed over this ruling, but, in essence, we’re not very surprised.”

Kulis noted that Bogard was only charged in connection with the first round she fired on the train platform, but not the second.

“The only thing that judge had to look at was the first shot and the second shot wasn’t even presented to the court,” Kulis said.

Tim Grace, Bogard’s defense attorney, put blame for the shooting squarely on Roman.

“I don’t know how we’ve come to the point in our society where citizens can believe they do not have to follow the lawful orders of police officers and law enforcement,” Grace said. “There’s a segment of our society that believes, for whatever reason, you don’t have to follow lawful orders of law enforcement. The offender, Ariel Roman, he dictated how this encounter happened.”

On Feb. 28, 2020, Roman was traveling through the downtown area on a northbound Red Line train. As the train exited the Loop into River North, he walked from car to car — in violation of a city ordinance.

Roman’s attorneys previously said he was diagnosed with anxiety in 2019, and he moved about the train in an effort to calm his nerves. Before delivering his verdict Tuesday, Claps said that was untrue. Roman, now 36, was also carrying a backpack that contained an illegal amount of marijuana, police said at the time.

Just hours earlier, Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Charlie Beck, then the CPD’s interim superintendent, announced that an additional 50 officers would be assigned to the CTA’s train lines to combat rising criminal activity on public transit.

Bogard and her partner, Bernard Butler, were relatively new to the CPD, with each officer on the force for less than three years. When Roman exited the train at the Grand station, the two cops followed and confronted him near the foot of the escalator on the station platform. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the Grand station was among the busiest of the CTA’s train lines.

Melvina Bogard | Cook County Sheriff’s Office photo

Bogard and Butler — who were already assigned to the CPD’s Mass Transit Unit — tried to place Roman under arrest, but he resisted. As the officers struggled to place him into custody, a passerby recorded the interaction on his cellphone.

The video shows Butler and Roman wrestling on the ground as two already-deployed stun guns lay on the floor. Roman — who ignored repeated orders from both cops to stop resisting — eventually regained his footing. Butler then told Bogard to shoot. After Roman took a few steps forward, Bogard fired a shot into his abdomen.

Roman then ran up the escalator toward the station’s main concourse area, and Bogard fired another shot at him, hitting him in the back.The witness immediately posted the video to social media, and the footage spread like wildfire before the CPD was able to issue its first statement on the shooting.

After the shooting, Roman was hit with resisting arrest and narcotics charges, though the state’s attorney’s office — at the CPD’s behest — opted to not prosecute Roman.

“Given the totality of the circumstances and the department’s significant level of concern around this incident, it would be insensitive to advocate for these charges,” a CPD spokesman said at the time.

Butler and Bogard were quickly stripped of their police powers after the shooting, and Roman soon filed a civil rights lawsuit against the city and both officers. That suit remains pending in Chicago’s federal court.

In April 2021, CPD Supt. David Brown brought a host of administrative charges against Bogard and Butler, accusing the two officers of violating several internal department rules. An evidentiary hearing on those charges is scheduled to begin next month, according to the police board.

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