News

Chicago Police Board fires cop whose gun was used in woman's suicide

The Chicago Police Board has fired a sergeant for his involvement in the death of a woman who allegedly used his gun to shoot herself while he was off-duty and in her apartment.

Sgt. Steven Lesner, a 20-year veteran, admitted at a disciplinary hearing in May to inattention to duty and bringing discredit to the department by leaving his gun unattended and while on duty, and buying alcohol for Catherine Weiland, 47.

Lesner, then assigned to the Albany Park patrol district, testified that Weiland fatally shot herself while he was in the bathroom at her apartment while off-duty.

The two had met earlier that night in February 2009 when Lesner responded to a call of a disturbance between Weiland and her boyfriend at a Northwest Side restaurant.

In its unanimous decision, the police board made no comment about the case. The president of the police board, Demetrius Carney, declined comment after the hearing.

Lesner, who could challenge the punishment in Cook County Circuit Court, said he couldn’t comment when reached by phone after the hearing.

Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy had recommended that Lesner be suspended for 60 days, but the board rejected suspension as inadequate.

Lesner has been relieved of his police powers and placed on paid desk duty since November.

According to Chicago and state police reports, Lesner told detectives he drove Weiland home the night of the restaurant disturbance but stopped at liquor store first to buy her a bottle of wine.

A few hours later, the two talked over the phone. Lesner turned down Weiland's invitation go out drinking but agreed to come over to her apartment and watch TV when his shift ended, according to the reports.

Lesner, who was married at the time but has since divorced, told detectives he drank with Weiland at her apartment but denied having sexual relations with her.

At some point, he removed his ankle holster with his gun in it and put it on the floor, he told investigators. Lesner said he later went to the bathroom and heard a single gunshot from the living room.

Responding to a 911 call, officers found Weiland sitting on her love seat with a gunshot wound in her right temple and with Lesner's 9 mm semi-automatic handgun on her lap, reports show. She was dead on the scene, and the Cook County medical examiner's office ruled her death a suicide.

Lesner's hands were tested for gunshot residue but not for more than three hours after the shooting. The test showed no residue, but Lesner admitted he had washed his hands, according to reports.

Gunshot residue was found on Weiland's left hand even though police reports indicate she shot herself with her right hand. A lead investigator on the case told the police board in May that the test results might have been mixed up or that Weiland might have used both hands to fire the gun.

A relative of Weiland's told investigators that she was an alcoholic and bipolar and had not been taking her medications, according to reports.

mmanchir@tribune.com

Copyright © 2015, RedEye
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