The Chicago Sun-Times newspaper published a photo on Tuesday night that showed two white Chicago police officers holding rifles as they posed with a black man who was wearing deer antlers as he laid on the floor with his eyes rolled back and his tongue hanging out.
The Polaroid photo was reportedly taken between 1999 and 2003 in Chicago’s West Side police station, and it was given to the city by federal officials in 2013. The paper only recently obtained it in a court file because a Cook County judge ruled that it be made public.
The cops in the image were officers Timothy McDermott and Jerome Finnigan, according to the Sun-Times. The black man in the photo was not identified. The police department told the paper the man was a drug suspect but no arrest report was ever filed.
Attorneys for both the police department and McDermott asked that the photo be kept private to protect the identity of the black man, the Sun-Times reported. Their request was denied in March by Judge Thomas Allen and the photo was recently released.
McDermott, seen on the right, was fired last year after the city received the photo in 2013, according to the Sun-Times. He was fired in a 5-to-4 vote from the police board and police Superintendent Garry McCarthy was instrumental in McDermott’s firing, according to the paper.
Some on the police board who voted against his firing said McDermott should’ve been suspended, according to the Sun-Times. But those who voted in favor of his firing said in their written decision that the photo “shocks the conscience” and that it appears “to treat an African-American man not as a human being but as a hunted animal is disgraceful.”
Finnegan, the cop on the left, was sentenced to 12 years in prison in 2011 for leading a team of police officers who committed robberies and home invasions, according to the Sun-Times.
McDermott said in a 2013 interview with an internal affairs agent that he didn’t initiate the photo, the Sun-Times reported.
“I do remember an incident where I took a photo with Finnigan and it appears that this is it,” McDermott said, according to the newspaper. “Finnigan called me over, told me to get in the picture and I sat in the picture. The photo was taken, and I went back to the business I was doing that day.”
According to the interview transcription obtained by the Sun-Times, McDermott called the photo a mistake.
“I am embarrassed by my participation in this photograph,” he said. “I made a mistake as a young, impressionable police officer who was trying to fit in.”
His attorney, Daniel Herbert, reportedly advised McDermott not to comment to the Sun-Times. However, during the police board hearing to determine whether McDermott would be fired, Herbert provided a possible explanation for the photo, according to the Sun-Times.
“What’s to say this individual wasn’t performing at a Christmas pageant in the district and was dressed as a reindeer and had taken the reindeer suit off,” Herbert said. “Again, I don’t mean to make preposterous arguments, but the charges in this case, they warrant that.”
McDermott has appealed his firing.
Below is the full photo, from the Chicago Sun-Times: