City attorneys are refusing to publicly release police reports, video and 911 calls related to the killing of a Joliet man shot by a police officer.
The Herald-News filed a Freedom of Information Act request Feb. 7 for reports, video and 911 calls related to a supposed robbery at the First Midwest Bank branch on West Jefferson Street and subsequent incident in which Bruce Carter, 38, was shot and killed by a police officer.
On Feb. 6, Carter was shot four times and killed by Joliet police Detective Aaron Bandy at his home on South Des Plaines Street, according to coroner reports. Carter was suspected of robbing First Midwest Bank that day.
Joliet city officials denied the FOIA request, arguing releasing the records would interfere with law enforcement proceedings. The Herald-News appealed the denial to the Public Access Bureau of the Illinois Attorney General’s Office.
In a letter to the attorney general’s office, Joliet Assistant Corporation Counsel Sabrina Spano argued that releasing the records would interfere with an ongoing FBI investigation of the bank robbery, as well as investigations by the Will-Grundy Major Crimes Task Force and Will County State’s Attorney’s Office.
Spano also said the “police officer involved could potentially be subject to criminal prosecution,” and releasing the records would deprive him of a fair hearing and his due process rights.
Attorney Matt Topic said in an email that Spano’s letter contained “the kinds of generic and boilerplate claims that courts have repeatedly rejected, including in the Laquan McDonald case.”
“These records should be ordered released,” Topic said.
Topic represented journalist Brandon Smith in his successful lawsuit against the Chicago Police Department for the release of the dashcam video showing former Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke shooting and killing McDonald.
Governments have the burden to prove by “clear and convincing evidence” that disclosure of records would actually interfere with pending investigations, according to the attorney general’s office FOIA guide for law enforcement. They also must prove disclosure of the records would create a “substantial likelihood” that a person will be deprived of a fair trial or impartial hearing.
Joliet Police Chief Al Roechner and interim City Attorney Chris Regis failed to return calls Wednesday. FBI Special Agent Siobhan Johnson again refused to answer questions about the bank robbery.
According to Spano’s letter, Joliet police do not have body cameras and no outdoor surveillance video exists of the shooting incident.
Task Force Chairman Ken Kroll said the investigation of the Bruce Carter shooting was not finished. Even though the case has been turned over to the state’s attorney’s office, Kroll said investigators are doing follow-up work based on discussions with prosecutors.
Kroll said he didn’t know how Carter arrived at his home or what led the police there. He said he didn’t know the distance between Carter and the police officer at the time of the shooting. He said he has been updated on the direction of the investigation but he hasn’t read the entire file.
“I haven’t seen a narrative on this in weeks,” Kroll said.
He said the task force knew the “bare bones of what took place” within the first day of the shooting but “everything after that has been follow-up.”
State’s attorney spokeswoman Carole Cheney would not say if her office’s review of the case has been completed.