JAIME GAETA

  • Recommendation Termination
  • Decision Suspension
  • Length of process 12 months February 2, 2017 to January 18, 2018 Closed

Charged with violating 4 rules on 8 counts

Show all counts

Rule 38 2 counts

Unlawful or unnecessary use or display of a weapon.

Rule 6 2 counts

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

Rule 3 2 counts

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

Rule 2 2 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

3 did not vote

Did not vote or were not present for voting

The Police Board has considered the facts and circumstances of each Respondent’s conduct, and the evidence presented in mitigation, including each Respondent’s complimentary and disciplinary histories. The Respondents’ failure to abide by the Police Department’s use of force policy, as set out in General Order G03-02-03, Section II(B), resulted in a significant injury to Antwon Golatte. Their decision to use deadly force in a commercial and residential neighborhood on a Saturday afternoon also had the potential to endanger civilians in the area. As such, their misconduct here was extremely serious and unjustified. The Respondents, however, each offered evidence in mitigation, which the Board has considered thoroughly. Each Respondent called several supervisors who testified credibly regarding his respective positive job performance, character, and reputation. In addition, each Respondent has an exemplary complimentary history over many years with the Chicago Police Department. Officer Gaeta was appointed in 1999 and has earned a total of 127 awards, including the Superintendent’s Award of Valor, 5 Department Commendations, and 107 Honorable Mentions. Detective Matheos was appointed in 1995 and has earned a total of 186 awards, including 4 Police Officer of the Month Awards, 5 Joint Operations Awards, 11 Department Commendations, and 141 Honorable Mentions. Detective Matheos has no sustained complaints on his disciplinary history, and Officer Gaeta has one, which resulted in a two-day suspension. Based on the nature of the misconduct of which the Respondents are guilty and the circumstances in which it took place (including the limited time they had to react to a dynamic situation), and based on each Respondent’s record and years of service to the Department, the Board finds that a suspension of each Respondent for a period of one year is a justified penalty on the facts of these particular cases. The Board also recommends to the Superintendent that each Respondent receive training on proper techniques and tactics to use in vehicle stops to facilitate officer, suspect, and civilian safety. This training should occur before Officer Gaeta and Detective Matheos are authorized by the Superintendent to resume regular duty. The Board requests that the Superintendent report back to the Board about the completion of this training as soon after its completion as possible. POLICE BOARD DECISIONS The Police Board of the City of Chicago, having read and reviewed the record of proceedings in these cases, having viewed the video - recording of the testimony of the witnesses, having received the oral report of the Hearing Officer, and having conferred with the Hearing Officer on the credibility of the witnesses and the evidence, hereby adopts the findings set forth herein by the following votes: By votes of 6 in favor (Lori E. Lightfoot, Michael Eaddy, Steve Flores, John P. O’Malley Jr., John H. Simpson, and Andrea L. Zopp) to 0 opposed, the Board finds Respondent Police Officer Jaime Gaeta not guilty of violating Rule 2 (Count I), Rule 3 (Count I), Rule 6 (Count I), and Rule 38 (Count I); By votes of 5 in favor (Lightfoot, Eaddy, Flores, Simpson, and Zopp) to 1 opposed (O’Malley), the Board finds Respondent Police Officer Jaime Gaeta guilty of violating Rule 2 (Count II), Rule 3 (Count II), Rule 6 (Count II), and Rule 38 (Count II); By votes of 6 in favor (Lightfoot, Eaddy, Flores, O’Malley, Simpson, and Zopp) to 0 opposed, the Board finds Respondent Detective Harry Matheos not guilty of violating Rule 2 (Count I), Rule 3 (Count I), Rule 6 (Count I), and Rule 38 (Count I); and By votes of 5 in favor (Lightfoot, Eaddy, Flores, Simpson, and Zopp) to 1 opposed (O’Malley), the Board finds Respondent Detective Harry Matheos guilty of violating Rule 2 (Count II), Rule 3 (Count II), Rule 6 (Count II), and Rule 38 (Count II) . As a result of the foregoing, the Board, by votes of 5 in favor (Lightfoot, Eaddy, Flores, Simpson, and Zopp) to 1 opposed (O’Malley), hereby determines that cause exists for suspending each Respondent from his position as a sworn officer with the Department of Police, and from the services of the City of Chicago, for a period of one (1) year . NOW THEREFORE, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that the Respondent, Police Officer Jaime Gaeta, Star No. 17317, as a result of having been found guilty of certain charges in Police Board Case No. 17 PB 2928, be and hereby is suspended from his position as a police officer with the Department of Police, and from the services of the City of Chicago, for a period of one (1) year, from March 17, 2017, to and including March 16, 2018. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the Respondent,Detective Harry Matheos, Star No. 21386, as a result of having been found guilty of certain charges in Police Board Case No. 17 PB 2929, be and hereby is suspended from his position as a detective with the Department of Police, and from the services of the City of Chicago, for a period of one (1) year, from March 17, 2017, to and including March 16, 2018. These disciplinary actions are adopted and entered by a majority of the members of the Police Board who participated in these cases: Lori E. Lightfoot, Michael Eaddy, Steve Flores, John H. Simpson, and Andrea L. Zopp . (Board Members Eva-Dina Delgado, Ghian Foreman, and Rhoda D. Sweeney recused themselves from these cases pursuant to §2-57-060(c) of the Municipal Code of Chicago.) DATED AT CHICAGO, COUNTY OF COOK, STATE OF ILLINOIS, THIS 18th DAY OF JANUARY, 2018. Attested by: LORI E. LIGHTFOOT President MAX A. CAPRONI Executive Director

Minority Opinion

I dissent from certain Findings and from the Decisions in these cases. The majority states that Officer Gaeta and Detective Matheos had an opportunity to retreat to safety when Mr. Golatte drove his car forward and to the left, mainly because the other two officers on scene made the decision to do so. It was part luck that the other two officers on scene moved to a location of safety. Nobody, including the driver of that vehicle, Mr. Golatte, had any idea where that vehicle was going or where it would ultimately end up. The Superintendent and the IPRA investigators want time to slow down in this case. They want the situation to unfold in slow motion and only feel the officers would be justified if the front grill of the vehicle was perfectly aligned and heading directly into the path of the officers. The evidence showed that both Respondents may not have had the opportunity to safely move out of the way and believed their own lives and the lives of the other officers on scene were in jeopardy. The evidence showed they may have thought that Officer Whigham had been hit or killed by Mr. Golatte when he forcefully backed into Officer Whigham’s police vehicle. Each officer on scene was in a different position and processed the situation individually. The situation and the environment surrounding the event were chaotic. It was described by the Superintendent’s own expert witness as “rich.” Meaning the situation was dangerous, filled with loud sounds to include other visual and audio distractions such as loud verbal commands by some or all of the officers, screeching tires, Mr. Golatte’s vehicle smashing into the police vehicle, other outside noises, etc. The majority also found that when Mr. Golatte reversed his vehicle and then sought to drive away from the officers, he did not hit any of the four officers on the scene with his vehicle, nor were any of the officers ever in front of Mr. Golatte's vehicle. In my opinion, a person does not have to actually hit the officers, nor does the vehicle have to be pointed directly at them, before they have to make the split-second decision to use deadly force to stop or eliminate the threat. The testimony of Officer Gaeta highlighted the fact that he believed he was in fear for his life. I found his testimony extremely credible and believe that he absolutely was in fear for his life and made the decision to use deadly force.The majority credits the expert opinion of the Superintendent’s use of force witness Ronald Janota that Officer Gaeta and Detective Matheos were not justified in firing their weapons into the side of Golatte’s moving vehicle. Conversely, the majority does not credit the opinion of the Respondents’ use of force expert, Mr. Farrell. Mr. Farrell partly relied on information provided by the Force Science Institute and his own experience of investigating numerous of officer-involved shootings, and opined that Officer Gaeta and Detective Matheos were justified in their actions. He estimated they had between 1.16 and 1.41 seconds to draw their weapons, track their target, and then stop shooting. I agree with his assessment and would add that the Respondents actually exercised restraint by stopping their fire as soon as they felt there was no longer a threat. The majority also states the Force Science Institute data Mr. Farrell relies upon is not peer-reviewed or reliable based on the testimony of expert witness and environmental psychologist Lisa Fournier. I draw from my own experience of 25 years in law enforcement, where I made split-second decisions to use or not use deadly force, and do not automatically discredit data and testing from the Force Science Institute. I also find it odd that the Superintendent’s expert, Ronald Janota, was not even aware of the Force Science Institute and its studies of officer-involved shootings. Whether or not you agree with the Force Science Institute, I don’t know how you can claim to be a use of force expert and not even be aware of the Science Institute. The majority also calls into the question the validity of the stop that ultimately led to the shooting in this case. The officers were not charged with making an unwarranted stop. The events that took place after the stop resulted from Mr. Golatte’s decision to not comply with the officers’ verbal commands once the stop was initiated. Mr. Golatte should bear some responsibility in this case. He could have complied with the verbal commands of the officers as bound to do so by law, and complained later if he felt he was not being treated fairly or legally. These two officers have a combined 41 years on the Chicago Police Department and are highly-decorated officers with over 250 awards and commendations for various activities in law enforcement. They are both obviously extremely experienced. They made a decision to use deadly force when they feared for their lives and could have reasonably believed a forcible felony had just occurred when Mr. Golatte placed his car into reverse and smashed violently into the police vehicle. They could have reasonably believed Officer Whigham was seriously injured or killed by Mr. Golatte’s action. A decision, that once made, lasted less than two seconds. We are casting judgement on less than two seconds on an 18-year career and 23-year career. Based on all the factors presented in this case, I find thatthe Superintendent did not meet the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence any of the charges, and I find both Respondents not guilty as charged on all counts. /s/ JOHN P. O’MALLEY JR.