A physical encounter between a Chicago police officer and a Black woman walking a dog that was recorded in three videos early Saturday has prompted an independent investigation, criticism from the mayor and allegations of racial profiling from the woman's attorney.
The physical interaction between the officer — whom police have not identified — and the woman, Nikkita Brown, occurred at 12:12 a.m. in Lincoln Park, according to Brown’s attorney, Keenan J. Saulter. The encounter sparked an investigation by the city’s Civilian Office of Police Accountability, or COPA, and criticism from Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who said she was “quite disturbed by what I saw.”
Saulter’s law firm has released three videos, one shot by Brown as she encountered the officer and two others shot by bystanders. The witnesses’ videos appear to show the officer and Brown in a physical altercation after the officer confronted Brown because she was walking the dog after the park had closed, Saulter said.
NBC News does not know what preceded or followed any of the video in the three recordings.
Police have said that because the woman was not arrested, there is no arrest report detailing what occurred before the encounter.
A statement from Saulter’s law firm said Brown was “brutally attacked” in an “obvious case of racial profiling” because white pedestrians were in view of the officer but were not approached as Brown was.
“He never had a reason to approach her. He never had a reason to attack her, and never had a reason to arrest her,” Saulter said Tuesday afternoon. “And the best evidence of that is that after he attacked her, he allowed her to walk away.”
After Brown spoke to the officer, she told him she was leaving the park, Saulter said.
The statement said that the officer grappled with Brown and knocked her cellphone from her hands and that she was “knocked out of her shoes.”
Police Superintendent David Brown on Monday “directed that the officer involved in an incident with a woman walking her dog along a lakefront beach be placed on administrative duties pending the outcome of the ongoing investigation by the Civilian Office of Police Accountability,” police said in a statement Tuesday.
NBC Chicago reported that Brown asked the public to be patient Monday.
“I just want to ask the public to allow COPA to complete this investigation and allow for this process of finding out what happened, getting to the bottom of it, to play out before we then are able to make any kind of next steps from my perspective, from a COPA perspective,” he said.
Police declined to answer additional questions, such as requests for the officer’s name and whether his administrative leave is paid or unpaid.
One of the videos, a 22-second clip that Brown recorded on her cellphone, shows the officer standing outside and next to an SUV. He tells the woman, “Yeah, I’ll turn my camera on, make this an official incident.”
The officer approaches the woman, who tells him: “Respect my space. It’s Covid.”
The unmasked officer tells her, “I’m about to put handcuffs on you.” As he moves closer, he says: “I don’t need a mask. I’m outside.”
A second video lasts one minute. It was shot by a bystander from a distance. It appears to show two people in a physical struggle and a dog moving about.
A third video lasts 2 minutes, 17 seconds. It was shot from a third vantage point closer than the second video.
The video shows a woman walking away from the officer while a small dog walks beside her on a leash. Words exchanged between the officer and the woman are not audible.
In the third video, the officer grabs at whatever the woman is holding, which appears to be a cellphone, and the woman and the officer have a physical altercation that lasts more than a minute.
When the officer tries to restrain the woman, she screams multiple times, and her dog repeatedly jumps on the officer’s right leg.
The officer appears to eventually let the woman go, and she and the officer walk in opposite directions.
“I was quite disturbed by what I saw. It looked like the woman was following the direction of the officer and leaving the beach,” Lightfoot said Monday, according to NBC Chicago. “What I would urge is this is a pretty straightforward matter. ... It’s concerning what we saw on the video. But I want to make sure that COPA moves this to the top of the priority list and gets this done. I think this woman deserves to have answers as to what happened, as do members of the public."
COPA said in a statement Monday that it has obtained bodycam video from the officer and is looking for more witnesses.
“We are committed to a fair, timely and objective investigation to determine if the actions of the involved officer are in accordance with Department Policy and Training,” the statement read. “We have a responsibility to investigate allegations of police misconduct and determine if they are well founded based on the facts and evidence of each case. If violations did occur, COPA will hold the officer accountable.”
Saulter said that later Saturday, Brown spoke with a police sergeant, who took a report “while she was still hysterical and traumatized.” Saulter said Brown was not ready to be interviewed by news reporters Tuesday.
“What she wants and is entitled to is accountability by the city of Chicago and the Chicago Police Department to ensure the situation is properly investigated and this officer is disciplined,” Saulter said. He said Brown believes “this officer should be fired.”