Daphne Sebastian

  • Recommendation Termination
  • Decision Termination
  • Length of process over 4 years October 20, 2014 to July 18, 2019 Closed

Charged with violating 5 rules on 10 counts

Show all counts

Rule 14 2 counts

Making a false report, written or oral.

Rule 11 1 count

Incompetency of inefficiency in the performance of duty.

Rule 6 1 count

Disobedience of an order or directive, whether written or oral.

Rule 3 3 counts

Any failure to promote the Department's efforts to implement its policy or accomplish its goals.

Rule 2 3 counts

Any action or conduct which impedes the Department's efforts to achieve its policy and goals or brings discredit upon the Department.

Board Member Votes & Decisions

Majority Decision

1 disagreed

Disagreed with the final decision of the board

0 did not vote

Did not vote or were not present for voting

22. The Respondent, Police Officer Daphne Sebastian, Star No. 2763, charged herein, is guilty of violating Rule 2 and Rule 3 in that the Superintendent proved by a preponderance of the evidence the following charges: On or about October 20, 2014, Officer Sebastian made one or more false, misleading, inaccurate, and/or inconsistent statements to a member(s) of the Department who responded to and/or investigated the events surrounding the fatal shooting of Laquan McDonald on or about October 20, 2014, at or about 21:57 hours, at or around the 4100 block of South Pulaski Road, Chicago. Said false, misleading, inaccurate, and/or inconsistent statements included that McDonald—after being told to “Drop the knife!”—continued to advance on Officers Jason Van Dyke and Joseph Walsh while waving the knife, or words to that effect; and/or McDonald turned toward Officers Van Dyke and Walsh, or words to that effect; and/or McDonald waved or made a motion with the knife when he turned towards Officers Van Dyke and Walsh, or words to that effect; and/or McDonald continued to move after he fell to the ground, or words to that effect. Officer Sebastian thereby violated: a. Rule 2, which prohibits any action or conduct which impedes the Department’s efforts to achieve its policy and goals or brings discredit upon the Department; and b. Rule 3, which prohibits any failure to promote the Department’s efforts to implement its policy or accomplish its goals. See the findings set forth in paragraph nos. 4 and 17 above, which are incorporated herein by reference. When questioned by Detective March right after the killing of Mr. McDonald, Officer Sebastian said she and Officer Mondragon had pulled up behind Mr. McDonald as he was running southbound down Pulaski Road. Officer Sebastian saw the knife in Mr. McDonald’s right hand, and that he was waving it. After Officers Walsh and Van Dyke pulled ahead of Mr. McDonald, stopped their vehicle and exited with their guns drawn, Officer Sebastian said that “McDonald turned toward the two officers and continued to wave the knife.” She then said that after Mr. McDonald ignored the officers’ command to drop the knife, he “continued to advance on the officers waving the knife.” Officer Sebastian concluded by saying she heard multiple gun shots and saw McDonald fall to the ground “where he continued to move” (Supt.’s Exh. 2). Some hours later, at Area Central, Officer Sebastian told IPRA Investigator Killen that when Mr. McDonald “got closer to them [Van Dyke and Walsh] and they got outta the vehicle, it (noise) he turned his body towards them like the knife like (noise) in a motion toward them. His (noise) his right arm did.” She then stated that after Officers Van Dyke and Walsh cut off Mr. McDonald, that Mr. McDonald does not stop but is “still moving.” She was asked: “Is that when he turns, so he faces---", and answered: “Hmm huh yeah he's still, he's still moving yes.” Officer Sebastian claims she did not watch her entire dash cam video prior to her IPRA statement (Tr., pp. 246-48). However, she told Special Prosecutor Holmes’s investigator in 2017 that she viewed at least portions of the video at Area Central (Tr., p. 192, 249-51). The Board credits Officer Sebastian’s statement to the Special Prosecutor and finds that she had in fact watched at least portions of the video prior to her interview with IPRA. At the hearing, Officer Sebastian testified that her statements to Detective March and IPRA were not made to suggest that Mr. McDonald posed a threat to Officers Van Dyke and Walsh (Tr., pp. 187-88, 231). She testified that Mr. McDonald was waving the knife but only as he trotted down Pulaski in the middle of the street, and not right before the shooting (Tr., pp. 186-88). She testified that Mr. McDonald made a twisting motion towards the officers right before he was shot, with the knife in his right hand (Tr., pp. 194-96, 224-25) but she denied that she ever said Mr. McDonald was attacking or attempting to stab Officers Van Dyke or Walsh (Tr., pp. 231, 256). While she told Detective March that Mr. McDonald was moving on the ground, she testified at the hearing he was not trying to get up (Tr., p. 199, 228). The Board finds that Officer Sebastian’s statements to Detective March and to IPRA were misleading and false because of her decision to omit substantial and important facts. It is true that Mr. McDonald began walking or jogging down the middle of Pulaski Road, and was waving a knife in his right hand. It is true that he refused to drop the knife. But her statement that he “continued to advance on the officers waving the knife” before he was shot is demonstrably false, as confirmed by Officer Sebastian’s own dash cam video and Mr. Torres’s testimony. Mr. McDonald was moving away from the officers and was not waving his knife at them. To the contrary, the officers moved toward Mr. McDonald. While Officer Sebastian claimed at the hearing that Detective March was not careful in the way he took notes, and she did not mean to suggest that Mr. McDonald posed a threat to Officers Van Dyke and Walsh or made an effort to attack or attempt to stab either Officer Van Dyke or Officer Walsh, she omitted these critical facts from the account she gave both Detective March and IPRA. Moreover, she omitted any mention of Mr. McDonald’s movement away from the officers or the officers’ movement toward Mr. McDonald. In fact, she gave the opposite impression. She suggested in her IPRA statement that Mr. McDonald made a turn so that he faced the officers right before the shooting, which is false. Similarly, while it is true that Mr. McDonald’s body was moving on the ground, she omitted the important fact that Mr. McDonald was not trying to get up and therefore did not present a threat while on the ground. As explained earlier, Rules 2 and 3 require Chicago police officers to give a complete and accurate account of what they have observed, particularly in a situation like this one, where a civilian was fatally shot by the police. Officer Sebastian’s statements are replete with critical omissions, so that they appear to help justify the use of lethal force by Officer Van Dyke. If she had given a complete statement, even including only the modifications to her statements that she gave at the hearing—that Mr. McDonald was not a threat to Officers Van Dyke and Walsh, did not attack them and did not attempt to stab them, and that Mr. McDonald was not attempting to get off the ground—the picture painted is entirely different. The statements Officer Sebastian gave to the investigators were not complete. They were misleading and false because of intentional and material omissions, and as such, she violated Rules 2 and 3. 23. The Respondent, Police Officer Daphne Sebastian, Star No. 2763, charged herein, is not guilty of violating Rule 14 in that the Superintendent did not prove by a preponderance of the evidence the following charge: On or about October 20, 2014, Officer Sebastian made one or more false statements to a member(s) of the Department who responded to and/or investigated the events surrounding the fatal shooting of Laquan McDonald on or about October 20, 2014, at or about 21:57 hours, at or around the 4100 block of South Pulaski Road, Chicago. Said false statements included that McDonald—after being told to “Drop the knife!” continued to advance on Officers Jason Van Dyke and Joseph Walsh while waving the knife, or words to that effect; and/or McDonald turned toward Officers Van Dyke and Walsh, or words to that effect; and/or McDonald waved or made a motion with the knife when he turned towards Officers Van Dyke and Walsh, or words to that effect; and/or McDonald continued to move after he fell to the ground, or words to that effect. Officer Sebastian thereby violated Rule 14, which prohibits making a false report, written or oral. See the findings set forth in paragraph nos. 4, 17, and 22 above, which are incorporated herein by reference. The Board finds that while Officer Sebastian’s statements to Detective March and to IPRA were misleading, in that they omitted key facts, and therefore were false in important respects, the Superintendent has not met his burden of proving that the statements she made were willfully false at the time she made them. Unlike the other Respondent officers in this case, most of what she included in her statements bore some resemblance to what happened on the street, as established by the evidence in this case, but they were misleading and false because of the material facts omitted. She did not invent a fiction of Mr. McDonald getting up off the ground with his knife after he was shot (as did Officer Viramontes). She did not intentionally falsely claim she did not see what transpired directly in front of her (as did Officer Mondragon). But to be sure, Officer Sebastian misled those investigating the shooting by consciously omitting key facts from her account of what occurred. The Board, however, finds that this is insufficient, in this case, to constitute a violation of Rule 14. (Board Members Foreman, Wolff, Eaddy and Flores hereby dissent from the majority concerning whether Office Sebastian violated Rule 14, and state as follows: We believe that the Superintendent did prove by a preponderance of evidence that Officer Sebastian violated Rule 14 by willfully making one or more material false statements. Officer Sebastian testified or provided statements about what she saw on October 20, 2014, on at least four different occasions. Officer Sebastian told Detective March that Mr. McDonald ignored Officer Van Dyke and Officer Walsh’s verbal directions to drop the knife and “continued to advance on the officers waving the knife,” suggesting a serious threat to the officers. She later told IPRA that Mr. McDonald turned his body towards them with the knife in his right hand, and was facing the officers. She further said that Mr. McDonald was still moving on the ground after he was shot. However, her dash cam video demonstrates that Mr. McDonald did not turn his body and face the officers immediately prior to his being shot. Most critically, Officer Sebastian failed to mention the important fact that Mr. McDonald was walking away from the officers at the time he was shot as clearly demonstrated by her own dash cam video. We note that Officer Sebastian changed her rendition of the incident throughout her various statements and testimony. In her first statement at the scene, she said that Mr. McDonald advanced toward the officers waving the knife and that when he was on the ground he was moving. When testifying before IPRA, she attempted to distance herself from the initial statement which suggested that Officer Van Dyke shot Mr. McDonald because he feared for his life, but continued to state that Mr. McDonald turned toward the officers with the knife (something which is contradicted by her dash cam video), potentially posing a threat. By the time she testified at the Board hearing, she said Mr. McDonald was just “waving it [the knife] as he was walking along” and denied that she intended to suggest that Mr. McDonald posed a threat to Officer Van Dyke by saying she did not remember “believing one way or the other” if she thought Mr. McDonald posed a threat. We agree with Board Member O’Malley when he says in his dissent, “The other members of the Board found her not guilty on Rule 14 for the same statements [as she was found guilty of vis a vis Rules 2 and 3]. It is my opinion that the decision to find her guilty for the same conduct under Rules 2 and 3 is totally inconsistent and confusing.” We agree that this is inconsistent and confusing, but reach the opposite conclusion, however, and believe she is guilty of violating all three rules. As the Superintendent proved, Officer Sebastian gave false and material statements that corroborated the testimony of others, intended to justify the shooting. As Officer Sebastian kept modifying her version of the event to make it appear that she did not intend to give statements justifying Office Van Dyke’s shooting, she proved that her first and second statements regarding the shooting of Mr. McDonald were false and misleading. Finally, even during her testimony, Officer Sebastian did not appear to be completely forthcoming. She stated that the video of the incident was playing at the station after the event and stated first, “I don’t recall watching it” and when asked in the very next question to be clear about whether she did or did not watch it, she then stated, “I don’t remember watching it in its entirety.” This testimony is, by the way, inconsistent with the testimony she gave to the Special Prosecutor. We wish to make clear through this dissent that the Board’s goal is to impress upon members the Department of the importance of telling the complete truth inclusive of the relevant circumstances and context. The Board regards a Rule 14 violation among the most significant actions to be judged by the Board. An officer’s responsibility to tell the truth is at the heart of Rule 14 and at the heart of community trust in the police.) 24. The Respondent, Police Officer Daphne Sebastian, Star No. 2763, charged herein, is guilty of violating Rule 2 and Rule 3 in that the Superintendent proved by a preponderance of the evidence the following charges: On or about October 21, 2014, Officer Sebastian made one or more false, misleading, inaccurate, and/or inconsistent statements to the Independent Police Review Authority, which responded to and/or investigated the events surrounding the fatal shooting of Laquan McDonald on or about October 20, 2014, at or about 21:57 hours, at or around the 4100 block of South Pulaski Road, Chicago. Said false, misleading, inaccurate, and/or inconsistent statements included that McDonald turned towards Officers Van Dyke and Walsh with a knife in a motion towards them, or words to that effect; and/or Officer Sebastian provided a true and accurate account of the shooting to IPRA, or words to that effect. Officer Sebastian thereby violated: a. Rule 2, which prohibits any action or conduct which impedes the Department’s efforts to achieve its policy and goals or brings discredit upon the Department; and b. Rule 3, which prohibits any failure to promote the Department’s efforts to implement its policy or accomplish its goals. See the findings set forth in paragraph nos. 4, 17, and 22 above, which are incorporated herein by reference. 25. The Respondent, Police Officer Daphne Sebastian, Star No. 2763, charged herein, is not guilty of violating Rule 14 in that the Superintendent did not prove by a preponderance of the evidence the following charge: On or about October 21, 2014, Officer Sebastian made one or more false statements to the Independent Police Review Authority, which responded to and/or investigated the events surrounding the fatal shooting of Laquan McDonald on or about October 20, 2014, at or about 21:57 hours, at or around the 4100 block of South Pulaski Road, Chicago. Said false statements included that McDonald turned towards Officers Van Dyke and Walsh with a knife in a motion towards them, or words to that effect; and/or Officer Sebastian provided a true and accurate account of the shooting to IPRA, or words to that effect. Officer Sebastian thereby violated Rule 14, which prohibits making a false report, written or oral. See the findings set forth in paragraph no. 4, 17, 22, and 23 above, which are incorporated herein by reference. (Board Members Foreman, Wolff, Eaddy and Flores hereby dissent from this finding for the reasons set forth in paragraph no. 23 above.) 26. The Respondent, Police Officer Daphne Sebastian, Star No. 2763, charged herein, is guilty of violating Rule 2 Rule 3, Rule 6, and Rule 11 in that the Superintendent proved by a preponderance of the evidence the following charges: On or about October 20, 2014, Officer Sebastian failed to visually inspect the in-car video system equipment on her assigned vehicle for damage; and/or failed to obtain the audio recorder from her in-car video system and/or ensure it was securely attached to her person; and/or failed to follow the start-up procedures for the in-car video system as trained and/or ensure the system was working properly, and/or failed to audibly record events with her in-car video system; and/or failed to notify her supervisor about the audio component’s status. Officer Sebastian thereby violated: a. Rule 2, which prohibits any action or conduct which impedes the Department’s efforts to achieve its policy and goals or brings discredit upon the Department; b. Rule 3, which prohibits any failure to promote the Department’s efforts to implement its policy or accomplish its goals; c. Rule 6, which prohibits disobedience of an order or directive, whether written or oral, in that she disobeyed Special Order S03-05; and d. Rule 11, which prohibits incompetency or inefficiency in the performance of duty. See the findings set forth in paragraph nos. 4, 14, and 21 above, which are incorporated herein by reference. Like Officer Mondragon, Officer Sebastian candidly admitted that she did not follow the requirements of Department Special Order S03-05 prior to her shift on October 20, 2014. She did not check to see that her audio system was operational, as well as the microphones, and did not sync the microphones to the video system in their car. Officer Sebastian testified that it was not her practice to follow this routine. Officer Sebastian did not dispute Sergeant Becvar’s testimony that her microphone was in the glove compartment of her squad car with the batteries either removed or turned upside down. It is also not disputed that no audio was available from Officer Sebastian’s car. For all practical purposes, Officer Sebastian did not dispute these charges and the Board therefore finds that she violated Rules 2, 3, 6, and 11, as charged. 31. Officer Sebastian presented evidence in mitigation from retired Sergeant Lee Bielecki, Barbara Ziegler, and Officer Antonio Phillips. In addition, Officer Sebastian, who joined the Police Department in 2002, has a complimentary history of 89 total awards, including two Department commendations, 65 honorable mentions, 13 emblems of recognition for physical fitness, and two attendance recognition awards; she has no sustained complaints on her disciplinary history. Nevertheless, after thoroughly considering Officer Sebastian’s service as a police officer and the lack of prior disciplinary history, the Board finds that her accomplishments as an officer and the positive evaluations of her do not outweigh the seriousness of her misconduct in this case. The Board finds that Officer Sebastian’s misconduct is incompatible with continued service as a police officer. While the Board has found that Officer Sebastian did not violate Rule 14, she nonetheless provided reports in this case that were deliberately misleading and therefore false. Officer Sebastian offered two accounts of a fatal shooting that made it appear as though Officer Van Dyke appropriately used lethal force against Mr. McDonald when that was not what occurred and not what Officer Sebastian saw. She deliberately omitted critical and relevant facts from her reports of what happened, so that her reports were misleading. Her misleading account of what transpired has undermined her integrity as a police officer and brought severe disrespect upon the Department and her fellow officers. Officer Sebastian’s conduct brought discredit upon the Chicago Police Department and undermined its mission. Effective law enforcement depends upon a high degree of cooperation between the police department and the public it serves. Conduct such as Officer Sebastian’s fosters public distrust and a lack of confidence in the integrity of the Chicago Police Department, thereby significantly harming the Department's efforts to achieve the important goals of preventing crime, preserving the public peace, identifying and arresting those who commit crimes, and promoting respect and cooperation of all Chicagoans for the law and those sworn to enforce it. The Board finds that Officer Sebastian’s conduct is sufficiently serious to constitute a substantial shortcoming that renders her continuance in her office detrimental to the discipline and efficiency of the service of the Chicago Police Department, and is something that the law recognizes as good cause for her to no longer occupy her office. By votes of 8 in favor (Foreman, Wolff, Delgado, Eaddy, Flores, Simpson, Sweeney, and Zopp) to 1 opposed (O’Malley), the Board finds Respondent Daphne Sebastian guilty of violating Rule 2 and Rule 3, as set forth in paragraph nos. 22 and 24 above. By votes of 5 in favor (Delgado, O’Malley, Simpson, Sweeney, and Zopp) to 4 opposed (Foreman, Wolff, Eaddy, and Flores), the Board finds Respondent Daphne Sebastian not guilty of violating Rule 14, as set forth in paragraph nos. 23 and 25 above. By votes of 9 in favor (Foreman, Wolff, Delgado, Eaddy, Flores, O’Malley, Simpson, Sweeney, and Zopp) to 0 opposed, the Board finds Respondent Daphne Sebastian guilty of violating Rule 2, Rule 3, Rule 6, and Rule 11, as set forth in paragraph no. 26 above. As a result of the foregoing, the Board, by a vote of 8 in favor (Foreman, Wolff, Delgado, Eaddy, Flores, Simpson, Sweeney, and Zopp) to 1 opposed (O’Malley), hereby determines that cause exists for discharging Respondent Daphne Sebastian from her position as a police officer with the Department of Police, and from the services of the City of Chicago. NOW THEREFORE, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that the Respondent, Police Officer Daphne Sebastian , Star No. 2763, as a result of having been found guilty of charges in Police Board Case No. 16 PB 2911, be and hereby is discharged from her position as a police officer with the Department of Police, and from the services of the City of Chicago. This disciplinary action is adopted and entered by a majority of the members of the Police Board: Ghian Foreman, Paula Wolff, Eva-Dina Delgado, Michael Eaddy, Steve Flores, John H. Simpson, Rhoda D. Sweeney, and Andrea L. Zopp.

Minority Opinions