A 13-year-old boy shot in the back by a Chicago police officer was unarmed and had his arms raised to surrender when he was hit by the bullet, according to a lawsuit filed on Thursday, saying the incident illustrates a deeply flawed implementation of the department policy. in pursuit of suspects.
The bullet severely damaged part of the black teenager’s spine, possibly leaving him permanently paralyzed by the May 18 shooting, the filing in Chicago’s US District Court says. Police previously said the boy was in a car suspected of involvement in a car theft in a nearby suburb the day before and that he jumped down and started running. He was not accused.
The excessive force suit says the seventh grader, who was a passenger, was following orders from several police officers chasing him across the grounds of a West Side gas station and yelling at him to put up his hands.
The boy, referred to in the lawsuit only by his initials, “was unarmed and did what he was ordered. But the officer still shot him – recklessly, callously and unrestrainedly – straight in the back,” the file alleges.
The shooting is the latest to highlight the Chicago Police Department’s history of aggressive stalking practices, which the city has vowed to change. Reform advocates say a still inadequate stalking policy and poor training often led officers to stalk and shoot suspects who posed no threat. Police said they were finalizing a permanent policy, but one was not yet in place.
The officer’s name was not released and he is referred to as John Doe Officer in the file. He was stripped of his police powers last week. The lawsuit names Doe and the City of Chicago as defendants and seeks unspecified damages for, among other things, mental anguish and future care expenses.
The city’s legal department said in a statement Thursday that it had not been officially notified of the complaint and would not comment further on the pending litigation.
The file says the boy did not have a gun and did nothing to make the officer believe he was armed or a danger to anyone. It adds that the use of force “was not objectively reasonable” and “neither necessary nor proportionate”.
Police Department David Brown said last week that the fleeing teenager turned to the officer and the officer fired. No weapons were found at the scene, confirmed last week the Civil Police Accountability Office, the body that investigates the shootings by police. COPA said it had footage from the policeman’s camera, but could not release them because the boy is a minor.
Thursday’s file says the officer knew or should have known that safer alternatives to a foot chase were available. Among the options, he says, was establishing a perimeter to contain the boy and then arrest him. At least one police helicopter was overhead and other police officers and patrol cars were in the area, closing in on the boy, the document says.
The suit says the department has been painfully slow to bring its persecution policy up to best practice standards, saying that prior to June 2021 the department “had no persecution policy”.
A scathing 2017 report by the US Department of Justice, which accused the Chicago Police Department of “tolerating racially discriminatory conduct” by law enforcement officers, also highlighted its prosecuting practices for intense criticism.
“We found that officers engage in tactically inappropriate and unnecessary foot chases, and that such foot chases often end with officers shooting someone for no reason – including unarmed individuals,” the report said.
The report led to a federal consent decree, a court-supervised plan to reform the department that, among a long list of requirements, required a fully updated police stalking policy to be in effect by the fall of last year, according to the process. But the lawsuit said the city missed the deadline.
“After (the department) implemented a woefully inadequate temporary foot chase policy, it was late in updating that policy,” the document reads. “Not only did it miss the September 2021 deadline imposed by the Consent Decree, but eight months later, the policy is still not in effect.”
City officials responsible for implementing the reforms have previously denied that she dragged her feet or missed deadlines.
The document argues that last week’s shooting might not have taken place if a solid stalking policy had been in place.
“The deep-rooted systemic issues that led to the entry of the Consent Decree – implicit bias and failures in training, oversight and accountability – still exist today,” the lawsuit said. He adds that the 13-year-old “is the latest victim of the CPD’s systemic failures”.