Chicago officer cleared of shooting Joshua Beal has history of racially charged violent encounters

Sgt. Thomas Derouin is named in two police misconduct settlements in which officers used racial epithets against African Americans.

Print More
Blue Lives Matter rally, Mount Greenwood

Photo by Michelle Kanaar

Hundreds attended a Blue Lives Matter rally at 111th St. and Kedzie Ave. on Nov. 8, 2016, in response to the police shooting of Joshua Beal in the Mount Greenwood neighborhood on Nov. 5, 2016. The crowd exchanged racial slurs, including comments of "go home," "you are animals, "and "why don't you just kill each other?" with a counter-rally, which included Rev. Michael Pfleger and activist Jedidiah Brown calling for a fair investigation into the shooting.

Two Chicago police officers who shot and killed 25-year-old Joshua Beal during a funeral procession in November 2016 have been cleared of wrongdoing, as the Civilian Office of Police Accountability found their use of deadly force to be adherent to policy.

Beal was shot eight times during a fight with plainclothes officers that erupted after a vehicle in a motorcade leaving a funeral he was part of was stopped by an off-duty firefighter for blocking a fire lane in Mount Greenwood, a majority-white Southwest Side neighborhood home to many members of law enforcement. Beal and the group he was with were black and the shooting sparked days of contentious protests.

“COPA recognizes the racially charged and tense nature surrounding the tragic events,” the agency said in a statement. “Video evidence does also display a raised weapon in the hand of Joshua Beal prior to the officers discharging their firearms.”

Witness interviews in COPA’s 46-page report on the incident state that racial slurs were exchanged in the fight.

“COPA acknowledges that this incident emanates from a racially-tinged confrontation between people who live in the neighborhood where it occurred and people who were merely driving through it,” the report says. “COPA’s analysis is limited to the lawfulness of the involved officers’ actions.”

One of the officers, Sgt. Thomas Derouin, has a history of being involved in racially charged cases of excessive force, as detailed in The Chicago Reporter’s Settling for Misconduct database of all Chicago police lawsuit settlements from 2011 to 2017. He was named in the $55,000 settlement for a 2012 case in which officers tased, threw to the ground, and pressed a gun to the head of a man who they also used racial epithets against. The man was later cleared of charges.

Racial epithets were also used in a 2008 incident, which was later settled for $10,000, in which Derouin and another officer are alleged to have violently stopped a man in South Shore whose ribs were broken in the encounter. The charge against the man was later dismissed. Derouin also has more than 25 complaints filed against him, which is more than 94% of other officers, according to the Citizens Police Data Project, including allegations of use of force, illegal search, and false arrest. Since joining CPD, Derouin also has received 242 honorable mentions, more than 99.8% of other officers, according to the Citizens Police Data Project.

On Monday, it was disclosed that the other officer who shot Beal, Joseph Treacy, is expected to testify against Officer David Salgado and Sgt. Xavier Elizondo, who are set to go on trial for allegedly cooking up bogus search warrants in order to rob drug dealers. Treacy has 30 complaints filed against him, more than 98% of other officers, for alleged use of force, illegal search, false arrest, and other forms of misconduct, but like Derouin, he has received a number of honorable mentions during his time at CPD, more than 98% of other officers.

The family of Beal, who was a father of two, has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the officers and the city. Lawsuits stemming from cases where individuals were killed by officers have cost Chicago taxpayers more than $60 million between 2011 and 2017, with such payouts averaging $1.9 million.

Cook County prosecutors had charged the victim’s brother, Michael Beal, with numerous felonies but dropped all charges last year.

The officers were not criminally charged for the shooting and the Cook County state’s attorney’s office said there are no pending criminal charges related to the incident.

Josh McGhee contributed to this report.