Chicago police chief Eddie Johnson was dramatically fired on Monday less than a month before he was due to retire for allegedly lying about falling asleep in his car after ‘a few drinks’ last month.
At a press conference, the city’s new mayor Lori Lightfoot spoke furiously as she accused Johnson of deliberately ‘misleading’ her, the city and the police department when he claimed in October.
Johnson, a 31-year veteran of the force, was found asleep behind the wheel of his car on October 17 at 12.30am after a member of the public called 911.
He later blamed his drowsiness on a mix-up with medication he was taking and said he had had a ‘few’ drinks at dinner. Johnson subsequently announced he would be retiring in December.
But after conducting an investigation into the incident which included reviewing surveillance footage of the night in question, Mayor Lightfoot said it was clear he lied about the incident.
She refused to say how, saying she wanted to protect his wife and three children, but said it amounted to conduct that was ‘unbecoming’ of his position.
It rounds off a tumultuous year for Johnson, who is being sued by actor Jussie Smollett for alleging that he faked a racist attack on himself on January 29.
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Mayor Lori Lightfoot fired Chief Superintendent Eddie Johnson on Monday at a furious press conference
Johnson stood in front of reporters in February to accuse Smollett of staging the attack to get a raise on Empire.
It was an extraordinary step for a police chief, but he said he was furious at the way Smollett had allegedly manipulated his force.
Smollett insists he is innocent and that Johnson waged a campaign of unfair treatment against him.
Lightfoot was not in power at the time, but her predecessor Rahm Emanuel agreed with Johnson in his condemnation of Smollett.
On Monday, Lightfoot said of the recent, car incident: ‘It has become clear that Mr. Johnson engaged in a series of ethical lapses that are intolerable.
‘Mr. Johnson was intentionally dishonest with me and communicated a narrative replete with false statements regarding material aspects of the incident that happened in the early morning hours of October 17.
‘Had I known all the facts at the time, I would have relieved him of his duties as superintendent then and there,’ she said.
Lightfoot, who took over from Mayor Rahm Emanuel – a solid ally of Johnson’s – added: ‘The old Chicago way must give way to the new reality.
Johnson married his 43-year-old wife, junior officer Lt. Nakia Kenner (shown right), in 2017. The pair are pictured with former mayor Rahm Emanuel
‘There must be no mistake about the message I am sending today.’
Johnson was only weeks away from retiring.
He was found asleep near a stop sign in his car, not far from his home, on the night of the incident.
The police officer who responded did not test to see if he was sober, and he drove home after being woken up.
Johnson is named personally in a lawsuit filed by Empire actor Jussie Smollett last month
Afterwards, he told reporters that he normally would have had his driver with him but that he’d given him the night off after a long day of work.
He said he felt he had to pull over because he was tired and that he was meant to have taken medication but hadn’t.
‘How can I explain it? It’s just your body kind of gives you a warning with the high blood pressure thing that you may pass out, so I pulled over, stopped and I just rested myself until that feeling passed,’ he said.
Now, Lightfoot says that is a lie.
She however refused to get into the details of the Inspector General’s report on the subject, saying: ‘I will not comment today on specific details.
‘At some point, the report may become public. I do not feel that it’s appropriate for his wife or children to do so at this time.’
Johnson was sworn in as the chief of police in 2012. He is yet to comment on the decision.
He and his wife tied the knot after he recovered from a kidney transplant from his son, Daniel. Daniel is one of his three children.