CHICAGO — 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 Thursday, saying the incident illustrates deeply flawed implementation of department policy on the pursuit of suspects.
The bullet severely damaged part of the Black teenager’s spine, possibly rendering him permanently paralyzed by the May 18 shooting, the filing in Chicago’s U.S. District Court says. According to police, the boy had been in a vehicle that was suspected of being involved in the carjacking at a suburb nearby the day prior and that he then jumped out and began running. He hasn’t been charged.
Plaintiff in excessive force suit claims that the seventh grader was being forced to obey orders by several officers shouting at him.
The boy, referred to in the lawsuit only by his initials, “was unarmed and did as he was instructed. But the officer still shot him — recklessly, callously, and wantonly — right through his back,” the filing alleges.
The shooting is the latest to put a spotlight on the Chicago Police Department’s history of aggressive pursuit practices, which the city had vowed to change. Reformers claim officers were too often forced to pursue and kill suspects because they didn’t pose a threat due to insufficient pursuit policies and inadequate training. While police say that they are working on a new policy, it is not yet in effect.
The officer’s name hasn’t been released and he is referred to as John Doe Officer in the filing. Last week, he was removed from his police duties. Doe and Chicago are named in the suit. They seek unspecified damages to cover, among others, future caretaking and mental anguish.
A message seeking comment from the city’s law department Thursday morning wasn’t immediately returned.
It states that the boy was not carrying a weapon, and the file does not indicate whether he is dangerous or in danger. It adds that the use of use of force “was not objectively reasonable” and “was neither necessary nor proportional.”
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Officer in Charge. David Brown stated last week that the fledgling teenager turned towards the officer, and the officer fired. The Civilian Office of Police Accountability confirmed that no weapon was discovered at the scene. This agency investigates officer-related shootings. COPA said it had footage from the officer’s body-worn camera but couldn’t release it because the boy is a minor.
Thursday’s filing says the officer knew or should have known that safer alternatives to a foot pursuit were available. According to the filing, one option was to set up a perimeter and contain the boy before he was arrested. According to the report, at least one helicopter of police was flying overhead. Other officers and patrol vehicles were also present, focusing on the child.
The lawsuit says the department has been agonizingly slow in bringing its pursuit policy up to best-practice standards, saying that prior to June 2021 the department had “no pursuit policy at all.”
A scathing 2017 report by the U.S. Department of Justice that accused the Chicago Police Department of “tolerating racially discriminatory conduct” by officers also singled out its pursuit practices for blistering criticism.
“We found that officers engage in tactically unsound and unnecessary foot pursuit, and that those foot pursuits too often end with officers unreasonably shooting someone — including unarmed individuals,” the report said.
According to the suit, the federal consent decree was issued. It is a court-supervised plan to reform the department. The lawsuit stated that among many other requirements, the report required that an upgraded police pursuit policy be implemented by the autumn of 2013. However, the lawsuit stated that the city failed to meet the deadline.
“After (the department) implemented a woefully inadequate temporary foot pursuit policy, it dragged its feet in updating that policy,” the filing says. “It not only missed the September 2021 deadline imposed by the Consent Decree, but eight months later, the policy is still not in place.”
The city officials who are responsible for the implementation of these reforms deny that they have dragged their feet and ignored deadlines.
The filing argues last week’s shooting may not have occurred had a sound pursuit policy been in place.
“The deep-seeded systemic problems that led to the entry of the Consent Decree — implicit bias and failures in training, supervision, and accountability — still exist today,” the lawsuit said. It add that the 13-year-old “is the latest victim of CPD’s systemic failures.”
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