Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Chicago Police Supt. David Brown took little time Friday in condemning the officer arrested for his alleged role in the U.S. Capitol riot, saying the charges could possibly undermine the community trust that the CPD is attempting to build.
Officer Karol J. Chwiesiuk’s arrest “makes me sick to my stomach,” Brown said, vowing not to “leave any rock unturned” to find officers with “like-minded beliefs” and “root them out of this department.”
“We have a zero tolerance for hate or extremism of any kind…,” Brown said. “If you harbor such ignorance, you should take off your star now and find another line of work. Or I will do it for you.”
Chwiesiuk, who was charged with five misdemeanor counts, used a racial slur for Black people when he bragged about being at the Capitol in text messages, according to his criminal complaint.
Lightfoot called the charges against Chwiesiuk a “total disgrace.”
“This isn’t about one police officer charged with a heinous assault on our democracy,” she said. It’s about sending a “clear and unequivocal message,” that, “We will have no tolerance for hate. Period.”
Brown added, “Trust is hard to earn and so, so easy to lose. “It’s not up to one individual to throw away….We will not allow anyone to tarnish our shining star—to bend it, twist it or sully its true meaning.”
Earlier Friday, U.S. Judge Gabriel Fuentes ordered Chwiesiuk to surrender his FOID card and not possess a weapon or keep weapons in his home while he awaits trial on an unsecured $15,000 bond. He also cannot travel to Washington D.C.
Three days before the riot, Chwiesiuk texted an associate, saying he was “busy planning how to f—- up commies” during a conversation about unsuccessful lawsuits that had been filed to dispute the results of President Joe Biden’s election, federal prosecutors said. He then allegedly traveled from Chicago to Washington and joined the mob that stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6.
In a text message on Jan. 6, he allegedly bragged that he “knocked out a commie last night.” Chwiesiuk also took photos of himself at the Capitol — including inside the building — while wearing a tan hoodie with a Chicago police logo on the breast, according to the complaint.
In another message, Chwiesiuk wrote “There’s so many blacks here I’m actually in disbelief” and in a message the following week about being inside the Capitol, he texted a racial slur, writing “N—-a don’t snitch,” the complaint alleges.
A selfie Chwiesiuk sent in a text message during the riot appears to show him inside U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley’s office. Chwiesiuk was also identified as being inside the Capitol in several other photographs.
Chwiesiuk was arrested around 8 a.m. Friday.
Chwiesiuk was relieved of his police powers on June 2 — as soon as Brown was alerted to the charges against Chwiesiuk and hung up the phone with the feds.
Chwiesiuk was hired by the CPD in December 2018 and lives on the Northwest Side with his parents, according to his attorney, Tim Grace, a lawyer for the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7 that represents rank-and-file CPD officers. He previously worked as a deputy with the Cook County sheriff’s office.
Most recently, Chwiesiuk was assigned to the Harrison District on the West Side, Grace said.
Brown said Chwiesiuk was on medical leave when traveled to Washington by car to participate in the storming of the Capitol.
Brown noted that Chwiesiuk was among more than a thousand officers added during a “hiring push” by former Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who reversed course when crime surged after years of relying on runaway overtime to mask a severe manpower shortage.
Such fast-paced hiring inevitably results in hiring people who “never should have been hired,” the superintendent said.
“It’s better to go slower and vet” police recruits, Brown said at the news conference with Lightfoot.
Flanked by civic and religious leaders, including the Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr., presidents of the Chicago Urban League and the Jewish United Fund and representatives from the LGBTQ and South Asian communities, Lightfoot said the Capitol riot was “fomented” by former President Donald Trump whom, she said, could not accept defeat “in an election he lost.
“We all watched in horror as these domestic terrorists…defiled our Capitol building” while Trump “said little to nothing to stop” the riot “he incited,” she said.
The mayor also could not resist the temptation to call out Fraternal Order of Police President John Catanzara, with whom she had done constant battle. She recalled that Catanzara “took it upon himself to defend” the Capitol rioters and only took back after learning that a Capitol police officer had died during the siege and being sanctioned by the National FOP.
“He blew a dog whistle on that day that was heard and answered,” the mayor said of Catanazara.“We will not tolerate this…We will not stand for it….You will not be paid [by Chicago taxpayers] to be a hateful member of our community,” Lightfoot said.
The mayor said she has ordered a thorough review of social media platforms to root out, what she called “white bigots and nationalists” like Trump and Catanzara and make certain that the city’s anti-hate edicts are strictly enforced.
Lightfoot bristled when asked whether that was tantamount to conducting a political witchunt.
“Being a hateful bigot is not a political view. Being a hateful bigot is the antithesis of who we are as a country,” the mayor said.
“We’re not going after people for their political views. But, we are going after people who are hateful and trying to foment violence against fellow residents of our city and our country. That is a very different thing. I don’t want to normalize this behavior because it’s not. It’s not normal and we’re not gonna tolerate it.”
Chwiesiuk is at least the 10th person from Illinois charged in connection with the U.S. Capitol breach, and he is the fourth on that list from the Chicago area. Earlier this week, federal authorities charged Christian Kulas, of Kenilworth, in connection with the breach.
Federal prosecutors in Washington, D.C., also filed a superseding indictment this week against Kevin J. Lyons that leveled additional charges against the Chicago man originally charged in January for his alleged role in the breach.
Hundreds of people have been charged nationwide in connection with the riot at the U.S. Capitol, and a staggering amount of evidence has been collected. Prosecutors have said it will likely amount to the largest investigation in U.S. history.