Videos prompt 2 excessive force probes of Chicago police

Several Chicago police officers are under investigation after a video surfaced showing them yanking two women out of a car and throwing them to the ground, and one of the women alleges one of the officers put his knee on her neck while restraining her

CHICAGO -- Several Chicago police officers are under investigation after a video surfaced showing them yanking two women out of a car and throwing them to the ground, and one of the women alleges that one officer put his knee on her neck while restraining her.

The Civilian Office of Police Accountability has launched an investigation into the encounter Sunday at Brickyard Mall on the city's West Side in which police said in a statement that Mia Wright was charged with disorderly conduct. It has also started investigating another incident captured on video showing an officer chasing and punching a protester after a demonstration about the death of George Floyd last week.

During the encounter outside the mall, Wright, 25, said “they threw me to the ground, and he (the officer) proceeded to put his knee on my neck.”

The video shows officers on both sides of the car bashing the vehicle with their batons before pulling a woman later identified as Wright and another woman from the vehicle and pinning them to the ground.

At a Thursday news conference, Mayor Lightfoot and Police Superintendent David Brown said the police department was working with COPA — which is investigating both incidents captured on the two videos — to identify the officers involved. Lightfoot said as soon as they are identified, their names will be given to Brown, and she promised that any officers who acted improperly would be held accountable.

Still, Lightfoot cautioned that as disturbing as the video at the shopping center might be, the public should not jump to any conclusions. “You can't just accept everything at face value that you see, and that includes video,” she said.

Part of COPA's investigation will be to determine if any officers put a knee to Wright's neck, as she alleges, but which can't be determined by viewing the video that has been made public. Lightfoot said officers are prohibited from kneeling on somebody's neck and Brown said he knows of no police department that authorizes the actions that unfolded on the video of the officer kneeling on George Floyd's neck.

Wright’s mother, Kim Woods, who watched from the backseat of the car, said: “The first thing I could think about was (George) Floyd,” who died May 25 after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed a knee into the handcuffed black man’s neck for several minutes even after Floyd stopped moving and pleading for air.

The second investigation was launched after a video surfaced that shows an officer chasing and then punching a protester after a Monday night demonstration over Floyd's death and police brutality that was held in the Uptown neighborhood on the city’s North Side.

The officer in the video can be seen pushing a man to the ground and punching him in the head. Neither the officer nor the protester have been identified, department spokesman Howard Ludwig said.

“We do not tolerate misconduct of any kind and if any wrongdoing is discovered, officers will be held accountable,” Ludwig said.

Police over the weekend were scrambling across the city to restore order after protests over Floyd's death devolved into widespread vandalism, fires, and clashes with police. The department said Wright was charged after she was “observed by responding officers assembled with 3 or more persons for the purpose of using force or violence to disturb the peace."

On Sunday, according to several media outlets, witnesses said police arrived at the mall where there had been reports of looting and spotted a car in which Wright, another woman and others were inside.

Wright said she and her relatives had gone to the mall because there had been looting at another mall they had wanted to go to. But they quickly realized that the Target store they wanted to visit was closed. She said their vehicle was surrounded by police as they tried to leave the parking lot.

She told WLS-TV that she was trying to get out of the car when police pulled her out.

“I was trying to get my hands up, they continue to break the window, and before you know it I was being pulled out of the vehicle, pulled by my hair. ... The officer grabbed me. I had my hair in a bun (and) he grabbed me by the top of my bun and pulled me out of the vehicle. And that is when they threw me to the ground, and he proceeded to put his knee on my neck.”

In a statement, Ephraim Eddy, a spokesman for the civilian board that investigates officer-involved shootings and other incidents involving the use of force, said that the agency had started an investigation “to determine if the actions of involved officers are withing Department policy."

The two incidents represent a fraction of the complaints alleging police misconduct in recent days. COPA's chief administrator, Sydney Roberts, said her office had received 258 complaints, most of which were related to the protests and upheaval on the streets. She said many of them allege excessive force, but there have also been complaints from people who allege that they were deprived access to an attorney, or that they saw officers trying to hide their identities by taping over their name tags or turning off their body cameras — both of which are violations of department policy.