Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot fired effectively Monday the city’s top cop set to retire at year’s end, saying he lied to her about an incident in October when he was found sleeping in his car.
Lightfoot accused Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson of “lying to me and lying to the public” about an incident where he was found sleeping in his car at a stop sign by a passerby who called 911 on Oct. 17 to report it.
“Just like with the public, Eddie Johnson intentionally lied to me — several times,” Lightfoot said after reviewing Inspector General Joe Ferguson’s preliminary report on the mid-October incident. “Even when I challenged him about the narrative that he shared with me, he maintained that he was telling the truth. I now know definitively that he was not.”
Johnson has told reporters he parked his car, in which he was found a few blocks from his home in October, because he accidentally missed a dose of medication prescribed after a blood clot in the summer and became lightheaded, and Lightfoot said he also told her he had “a couple drinks” at dinner.
Lightfoot said in a news conference Monday that Johnson was fired “for cause.”
“Johnson engaged in conduct that is not only unbecoming, but demonstrated a series of ethical lapses and flawed decision making that is inconsistent with having the privilege of leading the Chicago Police Department,” Lightfoot added at the news conference. “Had I known these facts at the time, I would have relieved him of his duties as superintendent then and there. I certainly would not have participated in a celebratory press conference to announce his retirement.”
Lightfoot said out of respect for the ongoing investigation and respect for his family she would not say what Johnson was lying about in previous accounts that differed from the findings.
Alderman Ray Lopez, an outspoken City Council critic, didn’t buy the excuse that Lightfoot could not explain what exactly Johnson was lying about and demanded the mayor release Ferguson’s preliminary report.
“She doesn’t need to protect him,” Lopez said. “She needs to protect the city. She needs to protect the department, which has to face the public in hopes of rebuilding trust in communities. That’s her job. Protecting his family is not her job.”
The firing brings to an abrupt end Johnson’s four-year tenure as superintendent. He was otherwise scheduled to leave the post on Dec. 31.
The 59-year-old, who has served 31 years with the police department, announced his retirement in early November, three weeks after the October incident, which he declined to discuss.
“It’s time for someone else to pin these four stars on their shoulders,” Johnson said in his retirement announcement. “These stars can sometimes feel like you’re carrying the weight of the world, but I’m confident that I leave CPD in a better place than when I became superintendent.”
“This job has taken its toll — taken a toll on my health, my family, my friends,” he added. “But my integrity has remained intact.”
Retired Los Angeles Police Department Chief Charlie Beck has been named interim superintendent of police.
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