CHICAGO — Chicago’s top police officer said his failure to take the proper blood pressure medication led to him falling asleep in his official police vehicle after he felt light-headed and pulled over while driving home from a late dinner.
Superintendent Eddie Johnson ordered an internal investigation into the incident, saying he wants to assure the public that he’s not trying to hide anything about his actions or the actions of the officers who responded to a 911 call from a passerby reporting that someone was asleep in a vehicle at a stop sign.
The responding officers found Johnson slumped over but allowed him to drive home and did not administer a breathalyzer test or a field sobriety test. Johnson said officers do such tests only when a motorist appears impaired or officers smell alcohol or cannabis.
It’s just the latest health scare for Johnson, who was diagnosed decades ago with a kidney condition that ultimately led to a transplant — with his son as the donor — two years ago. Earlier this year he was hospitalized for a blood clot.
Johnson was off-duty and driving home from a restaurant Wednesday night when he says he pulled over his black, unmarked police SUV and fell asleep. Johnson said he has a driver but that he elected to drive himself home from, in part because he wanted to let his driver go home to be with his family.
In explaining what happened, Johnson alluded to a news conference in early 2017 with then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel, when Johnson was helped to a seat after he wobbled and appeared to be about ready to fall to the ground.
“It’s just ... your body kind of gives you a warning with the high blood pressure thing that you may pass out,” he told reporters Thursday night.
He said the medical episode was the result of not following his doctor’s orders.
“When he adjusted my medication, I took the old medication for high blood pressure, but I failed to put the new medication in,” he said.
Johnson, who has been trying to restore public confidence in the department shattered by the release 2015 release of the now infamous dashcam video of the fatal 2014 police shooting of black teenager Laquan McDonald, said he wanted to take steps that would assure the public that his account was accurate.
The investigation into Johnson will be handled by the public integrity unit within the department’s internal affairs division, police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said Friday. That unit is comprised of officers who are detailed to the FBI and work out of the FBI’s Chicago office.
“If they have any sense that there was any impropriety, they would refer the case to outside investigative agencies,” Guglielmi added.
Guglielmi said there was no indication that alcohol played a role in the incident. However, he said he is prohibited from asking Johnson whether he had been drinking that night because of the ongoing internal affairs investigation.