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Priscilla Price says she smiled when she heard that a federal jury had found Chicago police officer Marco Proano guilty Monday night on two counts of unreasonable use of force for emptying his gun into a car full of teenagers in December 2013. Two and a half years before that, in July 2011, Proano shot and killed Price's 19-year-old son Niko Husband.
As reported by the Reader's Steve Bogira last year, Proano never faced criminal charges for killing Husband, a student at Kennedy-King College, who was emerging from a late-night dance party in Gresham when he was confronted by police looking for a man with an AK-47. Proano claimed Husband pulled a gun, though witnesses testified to the contrary and there was no physical evidence linking Husband to a gun recovered from the scene. IPRA ruled the shooting justified, and the police department even awarded him a commendation in the aftermath, a few months before he'd open fire on the car in Roseland.
Price ultimately decided to seek justice through a civil lawsuit. A jury awarded her $3.5 million. But because the jury had decided that Proano "reasonably believed . . . that Niko Husband's actions placed him or his fellow officers in imminent threat of death or serious bodily harm," the award of damages to Husband's family was nullified. The case is working its way through the appeal process, but the jury's verdict Monday gave Husband's mother a modicum of comfort.
"I'm glad the verdict was guilty," Price says. "I'm glad some families are getting justice and he's no longer on the street with a gun."
Though she hasn't had any contact with the families of the teens who were in the car Proano shot at, Price commended the witnesses who took the stand last week. "I'm glad they stood up to Marco Proano in the trial," she says. "I know it was hard for them to testify, but this a message to police officers who go beyond their training."
Proano will be sentenced in November and could face up to ten years in prison for each count of the indictment. Upon hearing the verdict Monday afternoon, he showed no visible reaction and walked out of court alone, without commenting to reporters.
Even though evidence about the 2013 shooting wasn't admissible in Price's civil case against Proano, Price's attorney Donald Shapiro says he's "gratified that a jury has recognized that this is a police officer who uses unjustified levels of force." Though information about the verdict isn't admissible in the appeal of Husband's family's civil suit, Shapiro says it might nevertheless have positive reverberations. "The [appellate court] judges are people just like everybody else—they watch the news," he says. "The judges may read about it and say, 'Jeez, this Proano guy is prone to using excessive force.' Of course, that's what the jury already decided in our case."