Accidental shooting nets 10-day unpaid suspension for Champaign cop

Accidental shooting nets 10-day unpaid suspension for Champaign cop

CHAMPAIGN — A Champaign police officer wasn't in the wrong when he pulled his weapon while chasing a fleeing suspect the night of June 11.

But when James Hobson lost his footing and his gun discharged, with a bullet striking Dehari Banks in the shoulder, the officer was in violation of CPD rule 4H, which covers the carrying of firearms.

That's the finding of an internal investigation, which resulted in a yet-to-be-served 10-day unpaid suspension for Hobson.

For not handling his weapon "with due care," the officer was also assigned to corrective firearms training before being allowed to return to patrol duties, which he did on Aug. 24.

Wednesday's news came one day after the Champaign City Council approved a $93,000 settlement with Banks, releasing the city from any future claims.

In August, State's Attorney Julia Rietz announced that Hobson's shooting of Banks, deemed to be "accidental," did not warrant any criminal charges following a review by the Champaign County Multi-Jurisdictional Investigative Team, which was led by state police.

But per policy, CPD's Firearms Discharge Review Board performed its own probe afterward. That was followed by a final review by Police Chief Anthony Cobb. The results were revealed Wednesday.

In an interview with WDWS, Champaign police Deputy Chief Troy Daniels said the firearms discharge review board "believes it was appropriate (for Hobson) to hold his weapon at that time in that he was chasing a subject through a neighborhood. That person turned toward him. He pulled his weapon; that was very appropriate to do.

"But when he did so, he reports that his foot slipped, and he accidentally pulled the trigger of his weapon. Basically, we hold officers accountable for their weapons — we have very high standards, and when you have the weapon pulled, even when it's appropriate, you have to make sure that it only fires when you intend it to fire."

Banks suffered a non-life-threatening wound after being shot by Hobson.

The officer attempted to pull Banks over for an alleged traffic violation the night of June 11, a Sunday. Authorities say Banks then eluded Hobson for a few blocks before crashing into a residential garage and fleeing on foot.

Hobson's pursuit ended in the 300 block of North Fourth Street, when Banks reached a fenced-in area, according to reports. At that time, Banks turned toward Hobson, who slipped on the ground, resulting in the accidental discharge of his weapon.

Two months later, Banks was charged with aggravated driving under the influence and aggravated fleeing and eluding for a separate incident that happened Aug. 5. That case remains unresolved, with Banks due in court early next month.

A Champaign police report said an officer saw a car fail to signal a turn from Eureka Street onto Willis Avenue and tried to stop it on Willis. The driver, later identified as Banks, took off fast, turned west onto Bradley Avenue and allegedly ran a stop sign and almost hit an MTD bus.

The car kept going, allegedly running another stop sign and veering into the wrong lane of traffic, where it almost struck an oncoming car. The officer followed the car for a time before ending the pursuit out of concern for public safety.

The officer later located the car and approached it on foot with his pistol drawn. The car, which came to a stop after hitting a fence between two houses, was unoccupied when the officer reached in and put it in park.

Police found Banks nearby, and he admitted that he was the driver and that he had smoked cannabis before driving. The report said Banks appeared disoriented and showed signs of impairment. Police found cannabis in the car.

According to the terms of the settlement, what the council approved on Tuesday night "is not to be construed as an admission of liability" by Champaign police.

Between Dec. 1, 2015, and Feb. 17, 2017, the council also signed off on settlements with four citizens who had accused twice-fired CPD officer Matt Rush of excessive force. Those totaled $570,000: $250,000 for Precious Jackson, $225,000 for Benjamin Mann, $70,000 for Kisica Seets and $25,000 for William Brown.

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