Embattled Northern Illinois University police Chief Donald Grady -- the man many hailed as a hero for his handling of a mass shooting on campus five years ago -- was fired today, the Tribune has learned.
The dismissal comes more than three months after he was put on paid leave for his department's alleged misconduct in a high-profile rape case, and five months after he asked the FBI for help investigating university finances.
Grady can appeal the firing, and his attorney, Michael Fox, pledged Tuesday that he will "fight this in every manner to show the injustice of what has now been done."
"The allegations against Chief Grady are baseless and we will be able to prove that," Fox said. "I believe there may be other motives in operation here in regards to Chief Grady's dismissal, and we will also be doing whatever we can do to demonstrate that as we go forward."
NIU said Grady was fired after a review of the rape case and police records, as well as an administrative hearing.
"The men and women of the NIU police department remain devoted to our longstanding commitment to community policing," said Bill Nicklas, NIU's acting director of public safety.
Grady, who led the campus police force since 2001, has had a roller-coaster relationship with the campus. He was praised for saving lives during the 2008 campus shootings that left five students dead, but also criticized for his sometimes prickly personality and refusal to share information about investigations.
His most recent troubles began last fall when a DeKalb County judge accused his department of misconduct in its investigation of an alleged sexual assault by one of its officers. The judge ruled an officer purposely withheld key evidence that could have cleared the defendant, an action the judge called "egregious." NIU authorities maintained that it was an oversight.
The former DeKalb County state's attorney quickly dismissed the case against Officer Andrew Rifkin, who has since filed a lawsuit against Grady and the university for mishandling his case.
"I'm sorry to see anyone lose their job, but I believe that given the circumstances here, it was appropriate," Rifkin's attorney Bruce Brandwein said.
There was no evidence presented during the Rifkin case that Grady had ordered or knew about the statements' withholding, known as a Brady violation.
Yet Fox, Grady's attorney, said that the "primary allegation" in Grady's termination letter was that the police chief either knew about the violation, or should have known about it.
"We will be using every possible form of due process we have available to demonstrate that we believe Chief Grady's dismissal was a foregone conclusion back in November," Fox said. "We believe that we can show that there was very little discussion, or true investigation, into what actually occurred pertaining to the Rifkin matter."
The university put Grady on paid leave Nov. 11, and appointed an acting police chief. The university also suspended Lt. Kartik Ramakrishnan, the NIU officer who investigated the sexual assault case; His case is still pending.
Grady's attorney, Michael Fox, has said he would contest any disciplinary action taken against Grady as it related to the Rifkin case because the chief was not responsible for the mistake. Grady drew a salary of about $206,000.
NIU's police sergeants stood by Grady when the university suspended him. They wrote in a statement that Grady had been cleared of "baseless allegations" in the past. "We can attest to the incontrovertible integrity and commitment of Chief Grady," they wrote.
Grady's reputation reached near-herculean proportions on campus Feb. 14, 2008, when NIU alum Steven Kazmierczak opened fire in a large lecture hall, killing five students and injuring 21 others before killing himself. When the first reports of the shooting came into his office, Grady, a former track star, ran the near-quarter mile from his office to the scene.