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Cop fired over 2009 death sues to get his job back

Sgt. Steven Lesner during break from his disclplinary hearing Friday. | Brian Jackson/Sun-Times

Sgt. Steven Lesner, during a break from his disclplinary hearing Friday. | Brian Jackson/Sun-Times

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Updated: August 30, 2014 6:25AM

A Chicago police sergeant fired this month over the 2009 death of a woman he says shot herself with his gun while the two drank together sued the city Monday to try to get his job back.

Steven E. Lesner, 48, called the Chicago Police Board’s July 17 decision to fire him “clearly erroneous” in his lawsuit, filed in Cook County Circuit Court, citing Supt. Garry McCarthy’s recommendation that he instead should have been suspended for 60 days in the death of Catherine Weiland, 47.

In explaining its decision to overrule McCarthy, the police board wrote, “Where the pattern of misconduct is as extensive as we find in this case and the consequences of the misconduct are so grave, the board finds that discharge is the only appropriate penalty.”

Neither Lesner nor his attorney, Thomas J. Pleines, could be reached for comment. A city Law Department spokesman declined to comment.

Lesner was a sergeant working in the Albany Park District on the Northwest Side when he responded to Weiland’s call for help during an argument with her boyfriend at a restaurant in February 2009. Lesner drove Weiland home — stopping to buy her a bottle of wine on the way — and returned to her Northwest Side apartment with more alcohol after his shift ended.

“Lesner and Weiland watched television, drank and socialized for a period of approximately 30 minutes,” according to Lesner’s lawsuit, which says he removed his gun and holster “and placed them alongside where he was sitting.”

According to the suit, Lesner “then got up and went to the bathroom. While he was in the bathroom, he heard a gunshot and returned to the living room to find that Weiland had committed suicide with Lesner’s weapon.”

According to police reports, Weiland was found seated, with the gun in her lap. Authorities determined that the bullet entered Weiland’s right temple, though the only gunshot residue found was on her left hand. Evidence technicians found no gunshot residue on Lesner’s hands, but police noted that Lesner had washed his hands by the time they tested them.

Weiland’s father and brother, both of whom have since died, told police in 2009 she’d had mental health issues.

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