Fired Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson says he didn't deceive mayor

Johnson, who was fired after more than three years as head of the police department, did acknowledge: "I made a poor decision."

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By Erik Ortiz

Eddie Johnson, who was fired as the superintendent of the Chicago Police Department for what Mayor Lori Lightfoot called a "series of ethical lapses," defended himself Tuesday saying that he has ended his career "with my integrity intact."

"I did not intentionally mislead or deceive the Mayor or the people of Chicago," he said in a statement, while also acknowledging "I made a poor decision and had a lapse of judgment" in connection to an October incident in which he was found asleep behind the wheel of his car.

"That was a mistake and I know that," Johnson, 59, added. "However, I have no interest in fighting a battle for my reputation with those that want to question it now. Reputations are not built in a day and not damaged in a day either. They are the result of years of living. We reap what we sow in this world."

Johnson's first public comments following his unexpected firing on Monday shed no further light on what occurred after midnight on Oct. 17 as well as in the hours leading up to his decision to drive home.

Lightfoot has declined to share details about what happened that evening and how she says Johnson repeatedly lied to her afterwards. An investigation into Johnson's actions being conducted by the city's Office of Inspector General remains ongoing, although Lightfoot said the details in it may eventually become public.

She said she reviewed the inspector general's report and videotape evidence to come to her decision.

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A source confirmed to NBC Chicago that Johnson had been out to dinner that evening with a female colleague of the police department. The source also said Johnson has not yet seen the video to which the mayor is referring.

In announcing Johnson's firing, Lightfoot said he had "told me something that happened that night that turned out to be fundamentally different than what he portrayed to me and what he portrayed to members of the public."

"Perhaps worst of all," she said, "Mr. Johnson has misled the people of Chicago."

On Monday, Lightfoot alluded to Johnson's actions having an effect on his family, and didn't want to go into detail because "I don't feel like it is appropriate or fair to Mr. Johnson's wife or children to do so at this time."

A driver first reported to 911 that Johnson was slumped behind his steering wheel at about 12:30 a.m. in front of a stop sign near his home. A breathalyzer test was not administered at the scene, but according to the Chicago Sun-Times, Lightfoot said Johnson had later told her that he had "a couple of drinks with dinner" before the incident.

Johnson told reporters in October that he pulled over because he wasn't feeling well, and that while he had changed out his old blood pressure medication, he failed to take his new prescription. Last month, Lightfoot continued to laud Johnson for his service in the department — he began his career as a patrol officer in 1988 — as he announced he planned to retire as superintendent at the end of this year.

But Lightfoot's announcement on Monday took the city by surprise.

In his statement, Johnson, a Chicago native who grew up in public housing, thanked both Lightfoot and her predecessor, Rahm Emanuel, who tapped him to lead the nation's second-largest municipal police force in 2016 at a time of turmoil following the police shooting of black teenager Laquan McDonald.

He also thanked the interim superintendent, former Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck, who began his duties on Monday, as well as the people of Chicago who have "treated me with respect and decency during these past few years, even when we had disagreements about particular issues."

At an unrelated news conference Tuesday, Beck said he remains friends with Johnson and will continue to seek his advice during this transition.

"I'll say this, none of us are perfect and everybody makes mistakes, but we have to live with that," Beck said.