Report: Rosemont cop said he 'had to' kill brother-in-law

Updated 4/14/2015 7:03 PM
  • Off-duty Rosemont police officer Rick Drehobl, after shooting his brother-in-law Joseph Caffarello on the streets of the village's gated community Jan. 7, told his colleagues he "had to do it" because he feared for his life.

      Off-duty Rosemont police officer Rick Drehobl, after shooting his brother-in-law Joseph Caffarello on the streets of the village's gated community Jan. 7, told his colleagues he "had to do it" because he feared for his life. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer, January 2015

The off-duty Rosemont cop who shot and killed his brother-in-law in January said he "had to do it" because he feared for his life and that of his sister and baby nephew, according to the latest state police report on the case released Tuesday.

A "hysterical" Rosemont Officer Rick Drehobl, sobbing and curled up in a fetal position on the sidewalk just feet from where he fired the shot that killed 31-year-old Joseph Caffarello, told a fellow officer, "I killed him. I shot my brother-in-law. He said he was going to kill all of us and the baby. I was in fear for my life. Joe hit us once with his car. Then hit us again. He hit us twice. I feared for my life."

The account, as described by Rosemont Public Safety Officer Jason Sheridan to Illinois State Police investigators, is one of at least a dozen narratives included in a 232-page document obtained Tuesday though the Freedom of Information Act. State police released their initial 61-page report on the shooting last Thursday, but withheld other reports because of an "ongoing criminal investigation."

Cook County prosecutors announced April 1 that they wouldn't file charges against Drehobl, after examining the results of a nearly three-month investigation by state police. They said there was "insufficient evidence" to bring criminal charges, though they haven't detailed exactly what led to their decision.

After a fight between Drehobl and Caffarello around noon on Jan. 7, Drehobl and his sister Deanna Caffarello -- Joseph's wife -- and Deanna's son left the Caffarello house in Drehobl's car, authorities said. Caffarello chased after them in his car, speeding down another street before turning and striking Drehobl's car head-on, according to police documents.

After the crash, Drehobl said Caffarello began approaching him while saying, "I'm going to kill you," according to the state police report.

Retired Rosemont Fire Chief Joseph Rizzo, now a village building inspector who was driving on the 6100 block of Scott Street that afternoon, witnessed the crash and resulting altercation. In an interview with state police, Rizzo said he saw Drehobl with a handgun raised in a "ready position," and telling his brother-in-law to get back in the car.

Caffarello took about three steps toward Drehobl, who then fired one round from a .45 semiautomatic handgun, striking Caffarello in the chest, according to the police report.

Drehobl went to Caffarello, saying, "Joe, are you all right? Are you all right?" Rizzo told state police.

A traffic crash reconstruction report and an analysis of vehicle data recorders determined that Drehobl's Acura TL sedan was stopped on Scott Street between Graff Drive and Granville Street when the Chevrolet Impala driven by Caffarello turned the corner and struck the front driver side of the Acura. Caffarello's car was going about 15 mph at the time of the crash, the report stated.

The report details an "agitated" Caffarello in interactions with Officer Sheridan during a traffic stop earlier that morning; the fight between Caffarello and Drehobl; and another fight between Caffarello and off-duty Officer Eric Herrera, which preceded the car crash and shooting.

Sheridan told state police he saw Caffarello driving at a high rate of speed and blowing two stop signs about 7:30 a.m. After the officer followed Caffarello to his house, Caffarello told him, "(Expletive) you. Get your cronies and the SWAT team. I'm untouchable. A ticket won't stick and an arrest won't stick. Want to go hands on?"

Concerned about Caffarello's behavior, Sheridan phoned Richard Drehobl Sr., a former Rosemont police captain who still works for the public safety department in special projects.

Drehobl Sr., who is married to Village Clerk Debbie Drehobl, told police that he became angry with Caffarello, who had made threatening statements about Rosemont police officers. He asked son Rick Drehobl and Herrera to talk to him.

Herrera told police he tried to talk to Caffarello, his best friend, at the house that afternoon. But when Herrera tried to put his arm around Caffarello as Caffarello was about to cry, he became combative.

"You wouldn't understand," Caffarello told Herrera, according to the report.

Herrera left, after which Caffarello and Drehobl got into a fight, reports say. During the altercation, Caffarello grabbed Drehobl by the throat and left marks on his neck, the report says.

Caffarello went upstairs, calling down to his wife to ask where his gun was.

Deanna Caffarello told police that her husband had been in and out of the house since 4 a.m. and was in an "agitated state," the report says, because he was trying to get some pain medications, which he was addicted to.

Drehobl Sr. said Caffarello was taking a lot of medication for a back and neck injury, and always overdosed. He said he never saw any physical signs his daughter was being physically abused, but he strongly suspected it.

Deanna told police she received threatening text messages from her husband in the past, and showed them one from Dec. 30 that read, "And if you call my mom while she's down in the dumps I'm gonna beat the (expletive) outta you in the front yard and wait for police to come and go full blows with everyone of them."

In an interview with the Daily Herald Monday, Rosemont Mayor Brad Stephens said he wasn't qualified to judge whether there should've been charges filed against Drehobl Jr.

"That's why we turned it over to the state police right away," Stephens said. "I'm just glad there's some closure to a horrible situation."

Drehobl Jr. was due to return to his regular police duties after being placed on desk duty during the state police investigation.

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