Updated: Champaign chief receives reviews of shootings by officers
Updated 3:05 p.m. Friday.
CHAMPAIGN — The Champaign police department has concluded parts of internal reviews of three incidents since September where officers fired their weapons and forwarded their findings to their boss.
But Champaign Police Chief Anthony Cobb said on Friday he'll not say if the officers involved in those incidents face any discipline and that he's not sure when he'll be finished reviewing the reports.
"The disciplinary process is a personnel matter. Personnel is a confidential matter that I don't care to talk about in the newspaper," said Cobb. "I still have to go through all the information they went through ... to see if I agree or disagree. We may have a dialogue back and forth."
On Friday, Cobb said that it appeared Officers Jon Lieb and Christopher Oberheim "performed in a dignified and professional manner" in keeping with best practices when they shot Anthony S. Brown, 25, at 1207 Crispus Drive, C, in the early morning hours of Sept. 9.
"There are no findings of policy violations or training," Cobb said. "They performed in a manner we want a Champaign police officer to perform in these types of circumstances."
The firearms discharge review board found that Lieb and Oberheim were justified in entering the house without a warrant and that their decision to fire on Brown was sound.
"When the suspect, having already threatened the occupants of the residence with a handgun, raised his weapon and pointed it at the responding officers, he presented an imminent threat of death or great bodily harm," according to a synopsis of the review board's findings made public Friday.
Brown, who has since been criminally charged with home invasion and being an armed habitual criminal, was shot four times. Police said in September that eight shots were fired. He was hospitalized at Carle until mid-October when he was moved to the county jail.
State's Attorney Julia Rietz said at the time that the shooting appeared to be justified as Brown allegedly threatened to kill his girlfriend's adult daughter with a gun and later the officers who responded to help.
Cobb also received reviews of Sgt. John Schweighart's decision on Nov. 20 to fire at the tires of a fleeing car in the alley in the 200 block of West Columbia Street and Officer Andre Davis' decision to fire at a pit bull that was attacking a Labrador at the intersection of John Street and Crescent Drive on Nov. 17, resulting in the death of the Labrador.
The Nov. 20 incident resulted in the arrest of Michael S. Glover, 45, of Charleston, who has been charged with home invasion, criminal damage to property, stalking, aggravated fleeing and possession of a stolen vehicle. Glover was not hit by gunfire.
Rietz also said previously that Schweighart's actions were justified as Glover allegedly tried to run over Schweighart while fleeing a violent domestic dispute that had left his former girlfriend and her current boyfriend injured.
In the wake of the dog shooting, the shooting board recommended that the department's use of force policy be revised to spell out that an aggressive animal has to be an imminent threat to a human being before an officer can fire. The board also recommended formalized training for officers on what to do when encountering aggressive dogs to curtail the need for deadly force.
Kathy Saathoff, the owner of the Labrador that was inadvertently shot by Davis, told The News-Gazette earlier that the pit bull did not appear to be a threat to any humans when Davis fired several rounds at the dogs. The pit bull was euthanized about a week after the incident when no one came forward to claim it.
"As I go through it, I will look at the specifics — who, what, when, the cost. Those are good recommendations from my perspective and I want to make an effort to accommodate them," said Cobb.
The review board also recommended quarterly refreshers for officers on the department's use of force policy and proposed having a certified weapons expert check out a gun that has been fired regardless of whether or not a malfunction is suspected.
"That's a minor change (in policy) that we haven't had in place before," said Cobb. "It doesn't hurt to do it. It makes sense to do it."
Asked if he might be willing to ask the city council to reconsider arming his officers with Tasers, Cobb said: "I don't want to talk about that at this time."
Champaign County sheriff's deputies and some University of Illinois police use Tasers and are sometimes asked by the Champaign and Urbana police departments to respond to calls where they might be useful in dealing with violent people.