“This was not a close call,” U.S. District Judge Gary Feinerman said at the sentencing hearing for Marco Prano. “Mr. Proano engaged in criminal armed violence.”
In August, a federal jury found Proano, a Chicago police officer, guilty of civil rights violations for shooting 16 bullets into a car full of black teenagers in 2013.
Federal prosecutors asked Judge Feinerman on Monday to sentence Proano to eight years in prison, saying it was an “opportunity for the judicial system to send a message to law enforcement” that police officers who use excessive force will face consequences.
Proano’s attorney asked the judge to impose no prison time, just probation, because none of the teens were killed.
Proano, 42, was charged in 2016 with two counts of using excessive force, both punishable by up to 10 years in prison, stemming from the 2013 incident in which he shot two of the six teens in a car he pulled over for speeding on the city’s South Side.
The police car dashcam video of the shooting was released in 2015 when a Cook County judge hearing the criminal case of one of the boys sent it to a local newspaper, the Chicago Reporter.
The video shows Proano coming up to the car, which is backing away from him, and opening fire into it, discharging all 16 rounds in his gun. One teen was shot in his left hip and right heel, while the other was shot in the shoulder.
Proano claimed he feared for the safety of the car’s occupants after the driver bailed and a backseat passenger hit the gas pedal. A pellet gun was recovered from the car but no evidence showed Proano saw it before opening fire.
After its investigation, Chicago’s Independent Police Review Authority found the shooting to be unjustified and recommended Proano be fired.
At trial, prosecutors described Proano’s actions as “a gross abuse of the power he’s been given,” and the jury agreed, deliberating for just four hours before returning a guilty verdict.
Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said in a statement, “Mr. Proano’s actions are intolerable and stand in stark contrast to the hard work Chicago Police Officers do each day to build trust and serve our communities.”
Proano’s attorney, Dan Herbert, also represents Jason Van Dyke, the Chicago police officer accused of murdering 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, an incident that sparked mass protests in the city and prompted a Justice Department investigation. No trial date has yet been set in Van Dyke’s case.
The Justice Department investigation, the results of which were released in January in a 161-page report, found that a lack of training and accountability had resulted in Chicago police officers using improper tactics, especially in black and Latino neighborhoods, which it blamed for civil rights violations and the erosion of public trust.
The Illinois Attorney General, with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s support, has sued for federal oversight of the city’s police department.