(Adds officer's status, political fallout, civil lawsuit)
By Nikitta Foston and Mary Wisniewski
CHICAGO, Dec 14 (Reuters) - A Chicago police commander who had been praised for his work in high-crime areas was found not guilty on Monday of battery for putting a gun in a suspect's mouth.
The acquittal of Glenn Evans, 53, represents a setback for Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez, who has been sharply criticized for taking 13 months to charge another police officer, Jason Van Dyke, with murder in the 2014 shooting death of a black teenager.
Evans' trial came as Chicago police were under local and federal scrutiny for use of force, following the release last month of a video showing Van Dyke shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald. The video was released on the same day Van Dyke was charged.
A judge found Evans not guilty following a bench trial last week for aggravated battery and official misconduct in the 2013 arrest of Rickey Williams, 25, according to a spokeswoman for the Cook County State's Attorney's office.
Evans also had been accused of holding a Taser to Williams' groin during his arrest for reckless conduct. Both men are black.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel has apologized for the McDonald shooting amid daily protests calling for his and Alvarez's resignations. The U.S. Department of Justice has launched a civil rights investigation into the city's police department.
The amount of force police can use has become a focus of national debate due to a series of high-profile police killings of black men by mainly white officers in U.S. cities.
Evans, who was relieved of his duties last year, has been the subject of several police misconduct lawsuits, according to local media reports. He will not immediately be reinstated to his post, pending investigations by the Police Department and by the Independent Police Review Authority, said CPD spokesman Anthony Guglielmi.
Prosecutors told Cook County Criminal Court Judge Diane Cannon that Williams' DNA was on Evans' gun.
Defense attorney Laura Morask said the presence of DNA did not prove the gun was in Williams' mouth. Cannon pointed to inconsistencies in Williams' testimony in making her decision.
"This is a case of a guy doing his job," Morask told reporters after the verdict. "We need commanders like that."
Other officers testified that Evans believed that Williams had a gun when he chased him into an abandoned building on the city's South Side.
A civil lawsuit by Williams against the city is proceeding, said his attorney, Stephan Blandin. (Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Matthew Lewis)
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