Police misconduct lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm highlight a troubling story out of Chicago involving a police officer and the death of a 47-year-old woman, Catherine Weiland.
Weiland was shot while sitting on her couch in her apartment in the early hours of February 18, 2009, while alone with Sergeant Steven Lesner. The bullet that killed her was from the officer’s gun. Investigative reports confirm that just before officers tested him for residue from firing the weapon, Lesner washed his hands.
Of course, investigators found no evidence of gunshot particles on his hands, as the residue is easily removed with soap and water. Chicago Police failed to test Lesner for the residue until more than three hours after he reported the shooting, which he claims was a suicide.
Then-police superintendent told theChicago Sun-Times that he was surprised to learn Lesner washed his hands before being tested, as officers know such action would compromise investigations. Officers are trained to understand that gunshot residue is fragile and easily washed off.
The shooting occurred around 1:45 a.m. that February, and records show that Lesner washed his hands about two minutes before police arrived at Weiland’s apartment. Reports indicate that some gunshot residue was found on Weiland’s left hand, however, the woman was right-handed, and the gunshot wound was to her right temple. No suicide note was found.
Adding even more suspicion to the case, police never ran any DNA or fingerprints on the weapon, which would have confirmed Weiland’s suicide. The Chicago police stated that fingerprints could not be obtained from the weapon’s surface, and that they did swab it for DNA, however, Lesner never provided any DNA to the Illinois crime lab, so tests were not conducted.
Lesner was never suspended in connection to the incident, however, he is now subject to an investigation by the CPD division of internal affairs. He did lose the ability to carry a weapon after the shooting, however, his gun was returned to him in April of 2011, two years after Weiland’s death.
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Lesner met Weiland when he responded to a domestic dispute call from the woman, which she made during a fight with her boyfriend. Lesner drove Weiland home because she was intoxicated; however he stopped on the way to her home to buy a bottle of wine. He then escorted her to her apartment and gave her his business card with his cellphone number on the back. A few hours later, Weiland called Lesner to go out for drinks. Lesner, who was married at the time, declined, but agreed to visit her apartment to watch TV and drink.
He arrived at her apartment around 11:30 p.m. to visit with Weiland. Before he went to the bathroom, around 1:40 a.m., he removed his gun and holster and put it on the floor. While in the bathroom he heard the fatal gunshot and called 911. According to the investigation there were pill bottles on the living-room table and in the bedroom, where police also found a bottle of Lesner’s beer.
Investigators tested Weiland’s hands for residue just before 4 a.m. and Lesner’s around 5 a.m., though Lesner’s clothing was never tested for any gunshot residue. Weiland’s boyfriend affirmed that the woman had some problems, including alcoholism and bipolar disorder, but that no one except Lesner will ever know what happened.
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Police misconduct lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm are currently evaluating potential excessive force and brutality lawsuits. Unfortunately, there are instances when police officers use their power and immense responsibility to manipulate crimes. Police misconduct lawsuits involve officers who violate someone’s constitutionally-protected rights. If you or a loved one was assaulted, shot, or falsely arrested by a police officer, you may be entitled to financial compensation.