Chicago taxpayers will spend $1.2 million to compensate the family of a high school sports star with good grades who was shot in the back by an off-duty police officer.
The settlement, expected to be approved by the City Council’s Finance Committee on Tuesday and by the full Council on Wednesday, stems from the Sept. 11, 2009 shooting death of 17-year-old Corey Harris.
Harris was the father of an infant daughter and the captain of the baseball and basketball teams at Dyett High School when he was gunned down after a late-afternoon chase.
At the time, Harris’ mother, Natasha Williams, told the Chicago Sun-Times that her son had no police record and was not involved in gangs.
“You can go to the school — the principal, the teachers, the security — nobody could give you a bad report about my kid,” Williams said then.
Williams subsequently filed a lawsuit accusing off-duty Chicago Police Officer Darren Wright of “wildly” firing a “series of shots” at a group of Dyett students that included Harris.
Chicago Police told a different story.
They claimed that an off-duty officer saw Harris shooting someone at 69th and King Drive and that the teenager ran when the officer took off in his vehicle in pursuit of Harris.
After Harris ran several blocks to the 6800 block of South Eberhart, police claimed that Harris pointed a gun at the officer and was shot by the officer in self-defense. A .40-caliber handgun was recovered nearby.
After an autopsy, the Cook County medical examiner’s office ruled that Harris died of a gunshot wound to the back.
At the time, Dyett, coaches and students questioned how a 17-year-old star athlete with good grades could wind up shooting someone, then moments later be killed after taking aim at an off-duty Chicago Police officer.
“Corey was a very good student and a talented athlete,” athletic director Charles Smith said at the time.
“He was probably one of the most popular kids in school. He was a handsome young man, very well-liked by his peers and very well-liked by the staff and administration.”
Smith described Harris’ mother as a “very hands-on mother” who frequently called her son to check on his whereabouts.
“She was the most involved parent I’ve seen since being an employee at Dyett,” Smith said.
Peter Thomas, an Oak Park businessman and former boss of Harris’ mother, said at the time that he had known Harris for years and did not believe the police version of events. .
“He’s been in my home dozens of times. I’ve been on vacation with him. I coached seven years of basketball at Columbus Park, and I know a gang kid when I see one,” Thomas said then.
“Corey was a straight arrow. He was in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
On Monday, First Deputy Corporation Counsel Leslie Darling could not be reached to explain why City Hall agreed to the settlement. Law Department spokesman John Holden refused to comment until Tuesday’s vote.
Melvin Brooks, an attorney representing Harris’ mother, could not be reached.
The settlement is just the latest in a series of costly pay-outs stemming from alleged police misconduct.