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Chicago police sergeant agrees to 60-day suspension after his gun was used in woman’s shooting death

Sgt. Steven E. Lesner  | Facebook

Sgt. Steven E. Lesner | Facebook

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Updated: February 5, 2014 6:04AM

A Chicago police sergeant has agreed to a 60-day suspension after his gun was used in the shooting death of a Northwest Side woman, but the Chicago Police Board could impose a greater penalty after it meets later this month.

At a hearing Friday, a City Hall attorney listed one “red flag” after another in the conduct of Sgt. Steven Lesner, who met an intoxicated woman while on duty, bought her wine, then took her home, where she later died of a gunshot from Lesner’s weapon.

Catherine Weiland’s death was ruled a suicide. Lesner, a 20-year-department veteran, is awaiting his final punishment, which could come after the police board meets Jan. 16, said Thomas Johnson, the board hearing officer who presided over his case.

“The board is going to ask me, ‘Why is the superintendent seeking 60 days, as opposed to discharge?’ ” Johnson asked Dan Myerson, the City Hall attorney who laid out police Supt. Garry McCarthy’s case against Lesner.

Myerson told him McCarthy thinks a 60-day suspension without pay is an “appropriate” punishment despite several “red flags” he said Lesner ignored in the hours before Weiland was found dead at her Northwest Side apartment on Feb. 18, 2009. She had met Lesner less than six hours earlier when he responded to her call for help during an argument with her boyfriend at a restaurant.

Myerson said those “red flags” included:

† Lesner met Weiland “at the domestic disturbance while on duty. That should have heightened the issue to him that this is a potentially risky situation.”

† Lesner put Weiland in his police car and drove her home because she was intoxicated, stopping along the way to buy her a bottle of wine. “Not only was she intoxicated, but he bought her more wine,” Myerson said, calling that decision “hazardous.”

† Lesner stayed in Weiland’s apartment for as long as an hour, eventually leaving so he could finish his shift. After his shift, he returned to her apartment with a six-pack of beer. “The fact he was drinking in her apartment while he had a weapon . . . is more inattention to duty,” Myerson said.

† Lesner put his feet on Weiland’s coffee table, but he was uncomfortable because his auxiliary weapon was in an ankle holster, Myerson said. So Lesner removed the gun and holster — a “petty reason why he took his weapon off.”

† Lesner saw Weiland bring out a “large pill box” with a “substantial amount of medication” and then left her alone with his weapon when she apparently shot herself in the head.

“He missed all these red flags,” Myerson said.

Lesner called the police to Weiland’s apartment at 3115 N. St. Louis, and, based on what Lesner told them, the police concluded Weiland committed suicide. The Cook County medical examiner’s office later ruled the 47-year-old woman’s death a suicide.

The police and the medical examiner’s office found that the bullet from Lesner’s gun entered Weiland’s right temple, though the only gunshot residue found was on Weiland’s left hand.

Lesner washed his hands before evidence technicians checked his hands for gunshot residue, according to police reports.

Lesner was stripped of his police powers and given “restricted duties” for almost two years after the incident, according to his attorney, Thomas Pleines. He was back on the job in the 17th District in August when the Chicago Sun-Times published an investigation of Weiland’s death.

As part of the agreement between Lesner and the city, the public will never be allowed to see 13 crime-scene photos, including pictures of Lesner’s weapon, the box of pills on Weiland’s coffee table and pictures of Weiland’s body.

Lesner, 48, and Pleines declined to comment as they left the hearing Friday.

Lesner has served half of the 60-day suspension. He has been stripped of his police powers and placed on restricted duty pending the outcome of his case.

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