- Case #: 16PB2912
- Police badge #: 10590
- Download original case files
- Recommendation Termination
- Decision Termination
- Length of process over 4 years October 20, 2014 to July 18, 2019 Closed
- Investigative Agency Not Specified
Charged with violating 3 rules on 3 counts
|Rule 14||1 count||
Making a false report, written or oral.
|Rule 3||1 count||
Any failure to promote the Department's efforts to implement its policy or accomplish its goals.
|Rule 2||1 count||
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
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15. The Respondent, Police Officer Ricardo Viramontes, Star No. 10590, 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 Viramontes 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 turned towards Officers Jason Van Dyke and Joseph Walsh, or words to that effect; and/or after McDonald fell to the ground, he attempted to get back up with the knife still in his hand, or words to that effect.
Officer Viramontes 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 no. 4 above, which are incorporated herein by reference. During his interview with the detective tasked with investigating the fatal shooting, Officer Viramontes stated that immediately prior to the shooting, Mr. McDonald “turned toward Van Dyke and his partner, Officer Joseph Walsh” (Supt.’s Exh. 2). At the hearing, Officer Viramontes testified that he saw Mr. McDonald “kind of twist and turn towards the officers” (Tr., p. 264), and that Mr. McDonald made a “twisting motion” with his right arm toward the officers (Tr., p. 291). Officer Viramontes’s statements indicated that Mr. McDonald posed a threat to Officer Van Dyke. The dash cam video, however, demonstrates that Officer Viramontes’s statements are false. Immediately prior to the shooting, Mr. McDonald did not turn toward Officers Van Dyke and Walsh, nor did he use his right hand to make a “twisting motion toward” Van Dyke and Walsh. In fact, Mr. McDonald was moving away from Officers Van Dyke and Walsh when he was shot and killed. The dash cam video is corroborated by the testimony of Xavier Torres (Supt.’s Exh. 42), who was parked one building south of the Dunkin Donuts, going northbound on Pulaski Road. Mr. Torres testified that Mr. McDonald did not make any threatening movements toward the officers, but instead was moving southwest in an effort to get away from them. This view of the dash cam video is further supported by the testimony of Sergeant Snelling. The Board finds Officer Viramontes’s statement about Mr. McDonald turning toward the officers to be demonstrably false.
At the hearing, Officer Viramontes testified that he did not see Mr. McDonald making “aggressive movements towards [the officers]” (Tr., pp. 288, 528), that he was not trying to ascribe blame to Mr. McDonald (Tr., p. 304), that McDonald in the moment before the shooting “looked towards [the officers]” (Tr., p. 292) and that Mr. McDonald may have twisted because he had been shot (Tr., p. 292). Officer Viramontes, however, provided none of this information to Detective March. As such, his report of a turn (or twist) toward Officer Van Dyke is misleading and false. The misleading nature of Officer Viramontes’s report is compounded by his failure to note that Mr. McDonald was actually walking away from Officers Van Dyke and Walsh at the time Officer Van Dyke shot him, that Mr. McDonald did not use the knife in any kind of a threatening manner prior to being shot, and that Officers Van Dyke and Walsh had begun moving toward Mr. McDonald as he was moving away from them. The Board finds that this was not an inadvertent misperception on the part of Officer Viramontes, but rather an attempt to portray through the selective inclusion and omission of facts that Mr. McDonald was a threat to the officers’ lives, when he in fact was not. Officer Viramontes’s decision to only include an account that would support Officer Van Dyke’s use of lethal force, rather than an account that fully set forth all of the relevant facts, including those that cast his fellow officer’s decision in a negative light, is sufficient to find that Officer Viramontes violated both Rules 2 and 3.
Officer Viramontes also told Detective March that after he was shot, Mr. McDonald fell to the ground “but continued to move, attempting to get back up, with the knife in his hand” (Supt.’s Exh. 2). At the hearing, Officer Viramontes actually testified that Mr. McDonald was “trying to push himself up” (Tr., p. 265), and he was using his arms to push himself up (Tr., p. 294). The Board finds Officer Viramontes’s statement to Detective March (and his hearing testimony) to be patently and willfully false. The dash cam video clearly shows that once Mr. McDonald was shot, he made no effort to get up. While his body moved from the repeated shots fired into him, Mr. McDonald’s hands are clearly visible on the video and he is not using them to get up. If Mr. McDonald was trying to get up off the ground with the knife in order to threaten the officers, Officer Viramontes would likely have drawn his weapon and prepared to defend himself and his fellow officers. But Sebastian Exh. 7 (a split screen version of two videos) shows that immediately after Officer Viramontes exited his car (as the shooting begins), he did not draw his weapon or assume a defensive stance, but rather casually walked to the rear of his squad car. This confirms that Officer Viramontes knew that Mr. McDonald was not making any effort to get up and present a threat to the officers on the scene. The Board finds that this statement by Officer Viramontes to Detective March was not only false, but designed to justify the number of times Officer Van Dyke shot Mr. McDonald.
16. The Respondent, Police Officer Ricardo Viramontes, Star No. 10590, charged herein, is guilty of violating Rule 14 in that the Superintendent proved by a preponderance of the evidence the following charge:
On or about October 20, 2014, Officer Viramontes 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 turned towards Officers Van Dyke and Walsh, or words to that effect; and/or after McDonald fell to the ground, he attempted to get back up with the knife still in his hand, or words to that effect.
Officer Viramontes thereby violated Rule 14, which prohibits making a false report, written or oral.
See the findings set forth in paragraph nos. 4 and 15 above, which are incorporated herein by reference. Commander Skahill testified that a Rule 14 conviction requires a willful and material false statement. The Board finds that Officer Viramontes’s statement to Detective March that Mr. McDonald attempted to get up with the knife still in his hand was willfully false, as this statement is so clearly at odds with the dash cam video, Officer Viramontes’s conduct as Mr. McDonald was being shot, and Mr. Torres’s testimony. The statement was material, in that it was directly related to and designed to support Officer Van Dyke’s use of deadly force, and his sustained fire of sixteen rounds into Mr. McDonald. While Officer Viramontes claimed he had a good-faith basis for recounting what he thought he saw (even if it was wrong in retrospect), the Board finds that because Mr. McDonald so obviously was not attempting to get off the ground, and no reasonable person could have thought he was, Officer Viramontes’s statement was willfully false when it was made and was presented to Detective March in an effort to artificially support Officer Van Dyke’s use of force. As such, the Board finds Officer Viramontes violated Rule 14, as well as Rule 2 and Rule 3.
29. Officer Viramontes presented evidence in mitigation from Theresa Casillas. In addition, Officer Viramontes, who joined the Police Department in 2003, has a complimentary history of 36 total awards, including 27 honorable mentions and one attendance recognition award. He has no sustained complaints on his disciplinary history.
Nevertheless, after thoroughly considering Officer Viramontes’s service as a police officer and the lack of prior disciplinary history, the Board finds that his accomplishments as an officer and the positive evaluation of him do not outweigh the seriousness of his misconduct in this case. The Board finds that Officer Viramontes’s misconduct is incompatible with continued service as a police officer.
Article I(B)(4) of the Police Department’s Rules and Regulations provides that: "The public demands that the integrity of its law enforcement officers be above reproach, and the dishonesty of a single officer may impair public confidence and cast suspicion and disrespect upon the entire Department. Succumbing to even minor temptation can be the genesis which will ultimately destroy an individual’s effectiveness and contribute to the corruption of countless others. A member must scrupulously avoid any conduct which might compromise the integrity of himself, his fellow members or the Department.” This case involved the fatal shooting of a seventeen-year-old by a Chicago police officer. Despite the gravity of this situation, Officer Viramontes willfully lied about the circumstances of this young man’s death, by contending that even after being shot multiple times, Mr. McDonald remained a threat to Officer Van Dyke.
Officer Viramontes’s statement was at odds with all of the evidence at the scene and represents a clear attempt to benefit his fellow officer at the expense of the whole truth. Moreover, Officer Viramontes’s misleading and therefore false statement about Mr. McDonald’s actions immediately before he was killed irretrievably undermined his integrity as a law enforcement officer and leaves the Board with no confidence in his ability to continue as a police officer.
Officer Viramontes’s conduct brought discredit upon the Chicago Police Department and undermined its mission.10 Effective law enforcement depends upon a high degree of cooperation between the police department and the public it serves. Conduct such as Officer Viramontes’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.
In addition, Officer Viramontes’s violation of Rule 14 renders him unfit to hold that office. Trustworthiness, reliability, good judgment, and integrity are all material qualifications for any job, but particularly one as a police officer. The duties of a police officer include making arrests and testifying in court, and a police officer’s credibility is at issue in both the prosecution of crimes and in the Police Department’s defense of civil lawsuits. A public finding that a police officer made false official reports is detrimental to the officer’s credibility as a witness and, as such, is a serious liability to the Department. See, Rodriguez v Weis, 408 Ill.App.3d 663, 671 (1st Dist. 2011).
The Board finds that Officer Viramontes’s conduct is sufficiently serious to constitute a substantial shortcoming that renders his continuance in his 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 him to no longer occupy his office.
Footnote: 10 Officer Viramontes is charged with violating Rules 2, 3 and 14. The Board finds that his violations of Rules 2 and 3 are, by themselves, sufficiently serious to warrant a penalty of discharge.
By votes of 9 in favor (Foreman, Wolff, Delgado, Eaddy, Flores, O’Malley, Simpson, Sweeney, and Zopp) to 0 opposed, the Board finds Respondent Ricardo Viramontes guilty of violating Rule 2, Rule 3, and Rule 14, as set forth in paragraph nos. 15 and 16 above.
As a result of the foregoing, the Board, by a vote of 9 in favor (Foreman, Wolff, Delgado, Eaddy, Flores, O’Malley, Simpson, Sweeney, and Zopp) to 0 opposed, hereby determines that cause exists for discharging Respondent Ricardo Viramontes from his 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
Ricardo Viramontes, Star No. 10590, as a result of having been found guilty of all charges in Police Board Case No. 16 PB 2912, be and hereby is discharged from his 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 P. O’Malley Jr., John H. Simpson, Rhoda D. Sweeney, and Andrea L. Zopp.