San Antonio police shooting from last year puts Chicago mayoral candidate on the defensive

Mayoral candidate Paul Vallas' son was one of three San Antonio officers accused of shooting a Black suspect as he fled on foot.

click to enlarge A fatal 2022 San Antonio police shooting could emerge as a factor in the current Chicago mayoral race. - Shutterstock / Moab Republic
Shutterstock / Moab Republic
A fatal 2022 San Antonio police shooting could emerge as a factor in the current Chicago mayoral race.
A Chicago mayoral candidate running on a law-and-order campaign is in defense mode after a recent media report examining his son's involvement in a fatal San Antonio police shooting.

The Triibe, a news site serving Black Chicagoans, last week published a story on mayoral hopeful Paul Vallas' son Gus Vallas being one of three SAPD officers accused of opening fire on a Black man fleeing on foot. A spokesperson for the campaign confirmed to the outlet that the younger Vallas was one of the officers involved in the March 2022 incident.

Vallas has campaigned for more vigorous policing and has frequently praised his son's public service as an officer during appearances, according to a Chicago Tribune report. Further, the candidate, a former Chicago Public Schools CEO, has the backing of the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police, a key opponent of police reform plans. 

Last summer, Vallas also tweeted his opposition to a Chicago Police Department policy change that bars officers from engaging in foot chases for minor offenses. The department adopted the revision last year after a pair of high-profile shootings of suspects, according to the Triibe.

In the San Antonio incident, Kevin Donel Johnson Jr., 28, was shot nine times by officers, his family told Texas Public Radio. SAPD officers said Johnson pulled a handgun from his waistband during the pursuit — a claim his family denies. Other officers found a handgun near Johnson’s body, according to a police statement.

In a body-cam video eventually released by SAPD, one of the officers can be heard shouting, “Get down, boy,” as Johnson stumbles on the side of a creek he runs through. It's unclear from the footage whether Johnson was holding a gun at the time officers unleashed a volley of shots.

“The matter was the subject of a complete investigation,” according to a statement Vallas’ campaign spokesperson provided to the Triibe. “Gus Vallas was found not to have engaged in any violation of policy and was returned to full duty."

Even so, San Antonio police accountability advocates have criticized Johnson's shooting, which occurred after officers approached him while he was riding his bicycle.

“The officers involved were aggressive from the start,” Ananda Tomas, executive director of police accountability group Act 4 SA, told the Triibe. “They clipped Kevin’s bike when they saw him. So, they already set the stage for this young man to be fearful for his life.”

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Sanford Nowlin

Sanford Nowlin is editor-in-chief of the San Antonio Current.

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