A Chicago police officer charged with investigating the police shooting of a mentally disabled, unarmed teen has filed a federal lawsuit saying his superiors retaliated against him after he refused to falsify records and lie about the shooting.
In a federal lawsuit file Monday, Sgt. Isaac Lambert, who has been with the Chicago Police Department for a quarter of a century, says he was demoted from detective to patrol cop as punishment for refusing to cover for the police officer who shot 18-year-old Ricardo “Ricky” Hayes in 2017, according to the Chicago Tribune. The details of the case, made public by the Chicago Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA), reveals huge discrepancies in the police narrative and what really happened that night.
Isaac Lambert became a Chicago police officer in 1994 and was promoted to detective in 2006. In 2016, he was named detective sergeant of Area South, essentially making Lambert a supervisor in the area, the Sun-Times reports. Since joining the force, Lambert has received some of the city’s highest police honors, including the Carter Harrison Award and the Superintendent’s Award of Valor, both of which are awarded to cops who display “valor,” “bravery” and “heroism.” Apparently, these qualities are inconsistent with being a Chicago peace officer.
In the early hours of August 13, 2017, Ricky Hayes, who is said to have “profound intellectual and developmental disabilities,” was reported missing. Two Hours later, Chicago police officer Khalil Muhammad, who was not on duty and not in a marked car, was driving home when he spotted Hayes “skipping and running” through the neighborhood, NBC Miami reports.
So, just to be safe, Muhammad opened fire on the teenager.
When Muhammad called 911 (remember, he was not on duty or in a police car), he told the operator: “the guy pulled, like he was about to pull a gun on me, walked up to the car and I had to shoot.” However, when the officer arrived at the station, Lambert claims, Muhammad “was not able to provide a coherent or believable explanation for why he shot Ricardo.”
Lambert was put in charge of investigating the case. When Hayes was released from the hospital with gunshots to the arm and chest, the federal lawsuit says that detectives wanted Lambert to charge the teen with aggravated assault because Muhammad was now alleging that Hayes threatened him, despite the fact Hayes reportedly “functions at the cognitive level of a child...has difficulty communicating...looks much younger than his age, and his disabilities are immediately recognizable.” Knowing this, Lambert refused to charge Hayes and ordered the teen immediately released to his family.
In September 2018, someone submitted an open records request for the case. CPD delayed releasing any information, claiming that they needed to check on how to handle this situation because Hayes was a ward of the state. Plus, they needed to check with Hayes guardians. And their computers were down, but they promised they were looking into it. Then they ran out of printer ink. Then the person who handles handling things was on vacation. But the real reason the CPD was stalling was even more ridiculous:
No one had ever written a report on the shooting.
So, a year later, Lambert’s bosses ordered him and another detective to write a report. But when he submitted it on October 2018, his superiors wanted him to list Muhammad, the cop who shot an unarmed, developmentally disabled teen, as the “victim” and classify the incident as an assault on an officer. They figured they could get away with the lie because there was no video or bodycam footage. Still, Lambert refused.
Then the video went public.
In October, COPA, who was now investigating the incident, released surveillance footage taken by a home nearby. The Tribune reports:
Surveillance video from the front porch of a residence shows Hayes running as a vehicle apparently driven by Muhammad follows him. Hayes stops and stands on the sidewalk in front of a home as the vehicle approaches.
Hayes takes several steps on the sidewalk before two gunshots from the vehicle can be heard on the video. Hayes runs out of frame, and the officer later identified as Muhammad exits the vehicle.
Lambert approved the final draft of the report on February 14, 2019, and it was accepted by Lambert’s superiors. On February 19, without explanation, Lambert was informed that high-ranking officers had decided to demote him and he would return to the patrol division.
The lawsuit, filed under the Whistleblowers Protection Act, says: “Lambert’s removal from the detective division was because he refused to participate in an effort to cover up the illegal conduct of Muhammad towards Hayes and because he refused (to) falsify police reports in order to mischaracterize a police shooting… The removal of Lambert from the detective division was an act of retaliation.”
Aside from unspecified damages, Lambert is seeking the craziest compensation package ever:
He wants to be a Chicago Police Department detective again, which is almost like suing a restaurant for food poisoning and asking them to compensate you with free meals.
But like my grandmother used to say: “Judge a man by the company he keeps...”
“Unless he’s a Chicago Police officer. In which case, you should stop judging and run like hell before he shoots you dead.”
Ricky Hayes has filed a federal lawsuit against the Chicago Police Department.
Isaac Lambert is still a Chicago Police officer.
Khalil Muhammad is still a Chicago Police officer.