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Archive for July, 2015

Romanucci & Blandin File Civil Lawsuit on Behalf of Shatrell McComb

Posted on: July 23rd, 2015 by Chicago Police Misconduct Attorney

CHICAGO, IL – (July 23, 2015) Attorneys for private citizen, Shatrell McComb, today announced the filing of a civil lawsuit against the City of Chicago, CPD Officers and Antoine Watkins whose willful and wanton conduct resulted in the wrongful death of 13-month-old Dillan Harris on Saturday, July 11, 2015. The claim also alleges negligence by Watkins, whose careless actions and improper handling of his motor vehicle lead to the striking and ultimate death of Harris in his stroller on a public sidewalk, and intentional infliction of emotional distress by the City of Chicago and its Officers who recklessly disregarded the high probability of their actions directly effecting the plaintiff and bystanders on the public sidewalks.

The complaint states that in the early afternoon of Saturday, July 11, 2015, plaintiff McComb was waiting for the bus with her 13-month-old son Dillan Harris and other family members near the residential intersection of South Ellis Avenue and East 63rd Street in Chicago, when defendant Antoine Watkins lost control of his vehicle, running several red lights traveling between 60-70 miles per hour, and struck Harris in his stroller, ultimately leading to the toddler’s death. During that time, Watkins was being pursued in a chase by CPD Officers through a residential community where the speed limit was 30 miles per hour, despite the Office of Emergency Management and Communications and/or Chicago Police Department supervisors allegedly instructing those Officers to stop the chase.

“The death of 13-month-old Dillan Harris is extremely tragic and one that unfortunately falls at the hands of not only the vehicle driver, Antoine Watkins, but the City of Chicago and its CPD Officers,” said McCombs’ attorney Antonio Romanucci, partner at Romanucci & Blandin, LLC. “There is absolutely no reason why on a sunny summer afternoon a police chase should have been taking place for nearly 30-minutes in a residential neighborhood where pedestrians and bystanders were present. Their negligence and conduct is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.”

According to public records obtained by Romanucci & Blandin, police directives indicate that a chase is allowed when the necessity to immediately apprehend the fleeing suspect outweighs the level of inherent danger created by a motor vehicle pursuit. When applying the balancing test, police officers are instructed to evaluate the volume of pedestrian and vehicular traffic to avoid creating unwarranted danger to themselves or others. Given the time and location of the chase, and the high volume of pedestrians on the street, CPD Officers should have terminated the police chase as it became increasingly reckless and dangerous and made alternative plans to apprehend the suspect when it was more safe to do so.

Plaintiff McComb seeks judgment against the City of Chicago, its Officers and Antoine Watkins, awarding compensatory damages and attorney’s fees. The lawsuit is civil action No: 2015L007478

New York City Settles Eric Garner Case for $5.9 Million

Posted on: July 19th, 2015 by Chicago Police Misconduct Attorney

This week, New York City reached a settlement with the family of Eric Garner, who tragically died during July of last year after being placed in a prohibited chokehold by police officers. The agreement was reached a few days before the anniversary of Mr. Garner’s death for $5.9 million to resolve a wrongful-death claim over his killing by the police on Staten Island.

Mr. Garner’s final words — “I can’t breathe” — repeated 11 times in video footage, became a rallying cry for demonstrators across the country who vigilantly pointed to the grave issue of policing actions in minority communities and racial discrimination in the criminal justice system last summer. This debate was only further fueled following the fatal shooting of another minority male, Michael Brown by a police officer in Ferguson, Mo., in August.

While the city is being commended for taking action in a timely manner to provide the family with even the slightest form of relief, the current resolution of the legal claim did not provide any greater clarity into the actions of the officers that day or on the policing strategies that have come under criticism in the last year. After all, the city medical examiner ruled the death a homicide, citing the chokehold and the compression of Mr. Garner’s chest by other officers who held him down. How can we just forget this detail?

According to the New York Times, several inquiries into Mr. Garner’s death were still pending, including investigations by the United States attorney’s office, the Civilian Complaint Review Board and state health officials, who are looking into the actions of emergency medical responders in treating Mr. Garner.

The agreement with Mr. Garner’s family appears to be among the largest so far as part of a New York City strategy to settle major civil rights claims even before a lawsuit is filed. At Romanucci & Blandin, we believe this is a tremendous result – not only from a monetary viewpoint, but from a policy and fairness viewpoint as the city settled this case for full value and treated Mr. Garner’s family with the dignity they deserve, as opposed to dragging them through years of litigation.

Fourth of July Weekend Deadly Once Again, Time for New Leadership

Posted on: July 8th, 2015 by Chicago Police Misconduct Attorney

Every Fourth of July, Chicago’s Navy Pier is alight with a fantastical fireworks display. It is a place of camaraderie, a shared honoring of the founding of this country, and a celebration of all the things that make it great to be an American. This year, however, after the fireworks had dimmed and the crowds thinned, it was the sight of a different kind of explosive, gun fire. Two groups squared off against each other in a deadly exchange–an exchange that was mirrored across the city. Over the holiday weekend, 7 people were killed and 55 wounded from gun violence. Among those shot dead was 7-year-old Amari Brown who was killed while watching fireworks outside his home in the Humboldt Park neighborhood.

In a news conference about the weekend’s violence, Chicago’s top cop Gary McCarthy blamed the criminal justice system for Amari’s death since it is believed the bullet was meant for his father, an alleged top-ranking gang member. Sorry Mr. McCarthy, while the system isn’t perfect, you certainly aren’t helping stem gun violence.

During his four years on the job, violent shootings in Chicago continue to rise. Meanwhile, gun violence incidents in other major cities like New York and Los Angeles are falling. Additionally, McCarthy continues to erode citizens’ civil liberties. In March, the ACLU released a report that showed Chicagoans are stopped by police at a rate that is four times greater than that of New York at the height of its stop-and-frisk practice. A vast majority of stop-and-frisks in Chicago are in direct violation of citizens’ fourth amendment rights. During a four-month period of May through August 2014, African-American Chicagoans were subjected to 72 percent of all stops (though this demographic constitutes just 32 percent of the city’s population). Clearly there is something wrong here.

And if the heightened violence and continual violations of constitutional rights weren’t embarrassment enough, Glenn Evans—one the city’s highest ranking police officers and a favorite of McCarthy—faces criminal charges and is being sued in civil court for excessive use of force.

At Romanucci & Blandin, we are staunch defenders of constitutional rights and have a demonstrated track record of fighting to curb police’s use of force. As for McCarthy and his tenure as this city’s man-in-charge, we have to agree with this op-ed from Crain’s “McCarthy has had four years. It’s time to turn to someone else.”