Chicago, IL – An investigator employed by the civilian review panel tasked with overseeing Chicago’s police accountability has been accused of lying to police about an alleged mass shooting that she said was going to be carried out on her office by a coworker.
Police arrested 35-year-old Alison Yohanna of Chicago’s Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA) on felony offenses of official conduct forbidden act and disorderly conduct false report of offense on Thursday, according to a Chicago Police Department press release.
According to investigators, Yohanna “knowingly sent a false email to the Inspector General’s Office stating that another current COPA employee would be conducting a mass shooting at the COPA offices,” the press release said.
During her initial court appearance on Saturday, Yohanna’s attorney, Robert Pervan, claimed the investigator had no “malicious intent,” and that she allegedly made the report out of an “abundance of caution,” the Chicago Tribune reported.
According to prosecutors, the incident occurred on Dec. 28, 2018, as Yohanna was logged into her computer at her COPA workstation.
Yohanna then wrote an email claiming that one of her male coworkers was a gun owner, and that he planned to bring his weapon to work to carry out a “mass shooting,” the Chicago Tribune reported.
She said the attack was expected to begin in the COPA intake room, and also identified another employee who she said had information about the planned attack, Cook County Assistant State’s Attorney Rachel Mabbott said, according to the Chicago Sun Times.
Two witnesses watched her send the message off to the Inspector General’s Office, the Chicago Tribune reported.
After the message was sent, someone reported the supposed threat to 911, and police and SWAT units were quickly dispatched to evacuate the COPA office building.
Investigators ultimately determined that the employee accused of plotting the supposed “mass shooting” did not have a weapon, and that he “had no such plan,” prosecutors said, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Further investigation revealed that the IP address the email was sent from came back to Yohanna’s office computer, and she ultimately admitted that she was the one who sent it.
But according to Pervan, Yohanna insisted that she had spoken with her coworker and believed he had a firearm and a plan to attack the COPA offices.
Her email was meant to alert investigators that they “might want to speak to this guy,” Pervan claimed.
“Nothing in the email suggested that this was an imminent danger or that there was something that was going to happen quickly or on that date,” he said.
Pervan said his client was “shocked” to learn of the charges against her.
“Unfortunately, we live in a society where we are told ‘if you see something say something,’” Pervan told the media after Yohanna’s court appearance, according to the Chicago Tribune. “She actually does something, and she’s being prosecuted for it.’’
Yohanna, a licensed attorney who has worked for Chicago’s civilian review panel for one year, has been placed on paid leave.
According to the Chicago Sun Times, the Inspector General’s Office also opened an unrelated investigation into Yohanna in December of 2018, but the details of that matter have not been released.
After she turned herself in on Thursday, the court ordered her to be held on $10,000 bond until her next hearing on Jan. 10, the Chicago Tribune reported.
COPA Chief Administrator Sydney Roberts praised law enforcement’s response to the incident, and did not attempt to excuse or defend Yohanna, WFLD reported.
“COPA staff members are held accountable for their actions, and we appreciate CPD’s prompt and professional work in assessing and investigating the anonymous threat,” Roberts said in a statement.
“COPA takes all violations of law seriously,” Roberts added. “The waste of City resources in response to a false threat, the unnecessary alarm to our staff, other building occupants and the larger Chicago community was egregious.”