Two Chicago officers fired for running as co-worker struggled
June 22, 2006 (Last Updated: 5:07 PM) (WLS) -- Two probationary Chicago police officers have been fired for what some are calling "cowardice" in the line of duty. They are accused of running for cover instead of helping a veteran officer who was struggling with an armed suspect at a grocery store earlier this month. A third officer involved is being investigated and faces possible termination.
The incident happened June 3 at a grocery store on the city's South Side. The suspect was shot and killed.
Everyday officers are confronted with potentially dangerous situations. That's what they're trained for. As the actions of three officers were criticized, more than 100 officers were commended Thursday for acts of bravery and smart policing.
Thursday is a special day for over 100 Chicago cops. As their families look on, and in some cases join the officers on stage, these officers are recognized for work above and beyond the call of duty. Here, there are men and women who risked their own lives to save others, officers who protected innocent lives or dug a little deeper to prevent the potential for crime and violence. Superintendent Phil Cline personally thanked the officers and posed for photos.
Each month there is a commendation ceremony to formally thank officers who performed heroically. But on this day, there are at least three officers who superintendent cline says did not perform well.
"Everyday, the Chicago police is out there doing it. And what happened at that store that night was not reflective of what our department does," said Supt. Phil Cline, Chicago Police Department.
On June 3, four officers responded to suspected shoplifter at the Dominick's on East 71st Street. As police attempted to handcuff one suspect, the suspect pulled a handgun. One officer struggled with the suspect and eventually shot him. The suspect was identified as 47-year-old James King.
Store cameras caught the scuffle and something else, how the other three officers failed to assist.
"During that struggle, he reached into his pocket and pulled out a handgun. The one officer continued to struggle with him. The other three officers left the immediate scene," Cline said.
Two of the officers were still in their probationary period before becoming full fledged officers. They were fired. The third officer, whose probation had just ended, has been stripped of his duties and being investigated internally.
"It's not what we train them to do. We train our officers to respond to dangerous situations, not to go away from dangerous situations," Cline said.
How those officers responded was not important for the officers and their families at Thursday's commendation ceremony. For those honored Thursday, there was a moment to reflect, but soon they'll be back on the job.
Police say the officer who shot the shoplifting suspect followed department rules on use of deadly force. That officer has been on the force for about four years.
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