Should Chicago Pay $44 Million for Off-Duty Officer Police Shooting?

Michael LaPorta will never walk again. He cannot use his right arm. He regained some speech after years of therapy. LaPorta remains blind in one eye and deaf in one ear.

Still, he feels lucky to be alive. Most people do not survive the type of gunshot wound he suffered at the hand of his former friend, Chicago police officer Patrick Kelly. The two had been college roommates.

Kelly was off-duty, at home, and drinking at the time of the shooting. In 2017, a jury found Kelly guilty of shooting LaPorta. The city of Chicago was deemed responsible for the shooting, and the jury rendered a $44.7 million verdict.

However, the federal appellate court in Chicago overturned the verdict earlier this year. It found that Kelly was acting as a private citizen and not a police officer when he shot LaPorta in the head. It was an act of private violence, according to the appellate court.

LaPorta’s attorney called the appellate court’s decision “intensely concerning,” and not just for his own client. He said the decision sets a precedent for accountability for police officers and the Chicago Police Department’s (CPD) “culture of impunity.”

In September, LaPorta filed a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court, asking for verdict reinstatement. The petition claims that a culture of corruption within the CPD allowed Kelly to “behave violently toward the public with impunity” during his career.

19 Misconduct Allegations

Before he shot his LaPorta on January 12, 2010, Kelly had 19 misconduct allegations filed against him. He was named in three misconduct lawsuits, ultimately costing the city $1,250,000. One of those lawsuits involved the tasering of a pregnant woman who then lost her baby. A girlfriend accused him of domestic violence.

The LaPorta petition alleges this record, and the CPD’s failure to act makes the city responsible for Kelly’s behavior off-duty.

While the CPD never arrested Kelly in the LaPorta shooting, it did place him on desk duty. He was suspended without pay after the appellate court decision. It was not until June 2021, more than 11 years after the shooting, that the Chicago Police Board fired Kelly. At the hearing, LaPorta testified and gave his accounting of the shooting.

Beating the Dog

On the night of the incident, the two men had gone out drinking. They visited two bars before going to Kelly’s residence. Once there, they got into an argument over Kelly’s treatment of his dog.

When Kelly called 911, he said LaPorta had committed suicide. He then noticed that LaPorta was still breathing. When emergency medical services and police arrived, Kelly became angry that he could not accompany LaPorta to the hospital and tried to hit a policewoman. Although he was arrested for assault in the incident, he was never charged.

Kelly has continued to insist that he did not shoot LaPorta but that the victim tried to kill himself. The gun and ammunition involved were issued by the CPD. The CPD supported Kelly’s version of events for eight years.

The Chicago Civilian Office of Police Accountability found that investigators did not conduct basic evidentiary procedures in the shooting’s aftermath. The CCOPA notes it was obvious that the investigation was conducted solely with the idea that this was an attempted suicide.

LaPorta’s version is very different. A former veterinary student, he says Kelly was beating his boxer dog. The men argued, and Kelly, disgusted, got up to leave. As he walked toward the door, Kelly fired.

No More Dreams

LaPorta’s injuries make him literally incapable of dreaming. He sleeps just a few hours at a time. He was once a man who loved to hunt, fish, and play football. Now he requires help to bathe himself and remains in constant pain. Over the years, he has undergone nine brain surgeries. He will not get better.

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