DeKALB - About 1 a.m. on a Sunday morning last August, DeKalb police officer Kaela Gardner came upon a chaotic scene.
Gunshots could be heard echoing in the night as Gardner exited her squad car. “Shots fired,” she said twice as she ran toward the sound of gunfire and at least one resident darted in front of her for cover, according to body camera video footage released Friday.
Seconds later, Gardner fired her own gun, the video shows.
The single bullet didn’t hit anyone. And the people fled. Moments later, Gardner helped arrest one of the men accused of being involved in an earlier shooting, where police say almost two dozen rounds were fired around the complex. The shooting spurred multiple 911 calls and led to Gardner being on the scene.
DeKalb police released the body camera footage on YouTube. It was produced to include background music, subtitles and a narration detailing what transpired. No one was shot during the incident, but the video clip showed car and home windows that had been shot out, among other things.
Gardner, who was hired in August 2019, was placed on desk duty following the incident, per existing DeKalb Police Department policy. She’s been put back on full duty, DeKalb Police Chief David Byrd said Friday. Gardner was found not to have violated department policy and she won’t face disciplinary action because of the shooting.
Byrd said the incident remains under investigation, however, and DeKalb police are still pursuing others accused of having weapons during the shooting.
“The officer maintained impeccable safety and tactical control,” Byrd said Friday. “Even though she came upon several armed subjects and she was alone at the time, and they had weapons, she fired one round so she was under control. They fled on foot and she was able to pursue them, and then with the help of other officers take some violent offenders into custody.”
Gardner did not respond to request for comment Friday.
The DeKalb Police Department conducted an internal investigation into the Aug. 8, 2021, police shooting and “determined that there were no departmental policy violations regarding this use of deadly force incident,” according to a news release. Byrd said the internal investigation was headed up by Police Commander Bob Redel, who runs the department’s detective bureau.
Byrd said he believes Gardner acted professionally and praised her use of training during the incident.
“It just goes to show the training that DeKalb police officers get,” Byrd said. “As much as we don’t want these types of events to occur, they have to be prepared for them. And to me, the video shows how prepared Officer Gardner was for this incident as well as other assisting officers. She handled it as professional as any officer could.”
The Illinois State Police and DeKalb County State’s Attorney Rick Amato conducted an external investigation in the months since. State police findings were handed over to Amato’s office Nov. 4, and he offered his office’s own conclusion days later on Nov. 9, he said.
“The Illinois State Police investigated the officer shots fired and made certain recommendations that was reviewed by our office,” Amato said Friday. “Our office did its own review of the evidence that was presented and determined that no charges would be filed against the officer for the shooting.”
No injuries to police or anyone else was reported in the incident. At least two vehicles in the area were damaged by gunfire, according to crime scene photos released by the DeKalb Police Department on Friday. A door to the Spiros Court apartment building in the 900 block and several apartments also were damaged, according to photos released by DeKalb police.
Dante Ormond, 30, of the 500 block of Normal Road in DeKalb later was arrested and charged with aggravated unlawful use of a weapon, a Class 2 felony; unlawful possession of a weapon by a felon, a Class 3 felony; aggravated discharge of a firearm, a Class 1 felony; and resisting a peace officer, a Class A misdemeanor, according to DeKalb County court documents.
Ormond is expected to appear for a status hearing in front of 23rd Circuit Court Judge Marcy Buick on April 14. He posted $5,000 bail on a $50,000 bond Aug. 19, 2021 and was released with an electronic home monitoring device, according to DeKalb County court records.
Devon Washington, 25, of Chicago also was charged in the incident, according to DeKalb police. Washington was charged with aggravated discharge of a firearm, aggravated unlawful use of a weapon, and aggravated possession of a weapon by a felon.
A warrant was issued for Washington’s arrest Sept. 30, according to court records. Judge Joseph Pedersen issued a $250,000 bond for Washington on Nov. 1, records show, which also includes a July 2021 charge of possession of a stolen firearm. Washington would have to post $25,000 to be released from jail. He’s also expected to appear for a status hearing on the charges April 14.
DeKalb police said Friday they expect more arrests in the shooting.
Several area agencies assisted in the investigation, including the DeKalb Fire Department, Northern Illinois University Police Department, the DeKalb County Sheriff’s Office and the Sycamore Police Department.
Body camera footage
DeKalb police responded to reports of a person allegedly seen brandishing a firearm at a house party. DeKalb County prosecutors believe the incident, which occurred at the Spiros Court apartment complex on the city’s north side, involved more than one shooter.
According to the produced body camera footage, at least three people who weren’t police appeared to be holding guns in their hands when Gardner first responded to the area.
DeKalb police said several 911 calls were reported from the initial incident which prompted the initial call to police, with callers reporting as many as 15 gunshots, according to the released video.
According to a news release, multiple DeKalb police officers responded to the calls.
In Gardner’s body camera footage, the incident is shown from her perspective, including when Gardner fired her weapon and Ormond’s arrest.
At about a minute into the video, Gardner gets out of her police car and can later be heard saying, “Saw two running from the back.” Multiple gunshots are then heard in the video, and she says, “They’re still going.”
Gardner is seen walking outside in between two apartment buildings, where four people are seen in an area between the buildings. She asks, “Where are they?” There’s an inaudible response from one of the people.
Then Gardner yells, “Get down, get down,” before firing one shot from her gun, simultaneously yelling, “Drop it.” She repeats “Drop it,” as the people scatter, running away from her.
As she runs with her gun out, she’s heard shouting, “Male, running, north,” and says the man is wearing an all-black sweatshirt carrying a 1032, meaning a gun, in his right hand.
At about 1 minute and 30 seconds into the video, Gardner runs through a parking lot and points her gun again at someone across the street on Hillcrest Drive, yelling, “Get down, get down, get down, hands up,” and then says, “I’ve got him on the street, Hillcrest. He’s down.”
A man – who police later identified as Ormond – wearing all black can be seen laying on the sidewalk with his hands in the air. Gardner tells him not to move. Additional body camera footage is included in the released video that shows other perspectives of the arrest. A second DeKalb police officer arrives to Gardner’s location, pointing his gun and tells the man laying on the street to lay on his stomach and put his hands up and out to his side.
The second DeKalb officer’s video shows Gardner standing over Ormond pointing her gun at him, instructing him to keep his arms away from his body. A third police officer comes and places handcuffs on the man on the ground at about 2 minutes and 20 seconds into the video. Several other officers also appear to arrive, according to the video footage.
A gun was located “a short distance” from where Ormond was arrested, DeKalb police said.
“Some residents were sheltering on the floor inside of these apartments with their children during the shooting,” DeKalb police said. Photos released also show interior damage from what appear to be bullet holes inside apartments.
More than 20 shell casings and bullets were located in the area after the shooting, DeKalb police said.