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$3 million settlement to family of teen shot by Chicago police

Cedrick Chatman. | File photo

Chicago taxpayers will spend $3 million to compensate the family of a 17-year-old shot to death by police while fleeing an alleged carjacking — a case with striking similarities to the police shooting of Laquan McDonald.

The Chicago Sun-Times reported in June that a settlement with the family of Cedrick Chatman had been reached. But the $3 million price tag wasn’t known then.

It is one of four settlements totaling $9.2 million on the agenda for Monday’s meeting of the City Council’s Finance Committee.

It’s also the latest in a long line of police misconduct cases, which have seen the city pay out more than $500 million in the last decade.

Chatman was shot as he sprinted away from a stolen car near 75th Street and JefferyAvenue in 2013. The shooting was captured on video by a police camera and by surveillance cameras at nearby South Shore High School.

Brian Coffman, an attorney representing the Chatman family, wouldn’t comment on the $3 million settlement until it has been approved by the City Council.

Corporation Counsel Stephen Patton and Law Department spokesman Bill McCaffrey could not be reached.

In June, Coffman emerged from four hours of settlement talks in a federal judge’s chambers and told the Sun-Times, “This will be another expensive lesson for the city. If they don’t change how they do things, well, there’s a bigger societal issue that needs to be discussed.”

Allegations made by Chatman’s family are troubling in their similarity to the police shooting of McDonald that triggered months of protests and a federal civil rights investigation of the Chicago Police Department. Officer Jason Van Dyke, who pumped 16 rounds into McDonald’s body as the teenager was walking away from police, has been charged with first-degree murder.

Like McDonald, Chatman was an unarmed 17-year-old who was shot as he ran away from police. As in the McDonald case, the police version of events was contradicted by a video that the city tried to keep under wraps.

Like McDonald, official investigations cleared officers involved in the shooting. And like the McDonald case, attorneys for the Chatman family said reports on the shooting had been doctored to clear the officers involved. In the Chatman case, the officers involved are Kevin Fry, who shot Chatman, and Fry’s partner, Lou Toth.

The city finally released the Chatman video in the unrelenting furor over Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s handling of the McDonald shooting video.

It showed that Toth could have done nothing as Fry chased after Chatman and was nearly hit himself when Fry opened fire. A federal judge dropped Toth from the lawsuit.

“They should reopen the file at the [Independent Police Review Authority] and the state’s attorney’s office and really look at the reckless conduct that occurred,” Coffman said in June, adding that Chatman’s family hoped their son’s death might be a “catalyst for change.”

The tragedy unfolded on the afternoon of Jan. 7, 2013, after Chatman and two friends allegedly beat and robbed a man driving a silver Dodge Charger before Chatman alone took off in the victim’s car.

Toth and Fry recognized the car on 75th Street, records show, and Toth pulled the officers’ unmarked squad car next to and slightly ahead of the Charger at 75th and Jeffery. Then, the officers, wearing plainclothes but in clearly marked police vests, jumped out of their car with guns drawn.

Toth ran around the front of the Charger, while Fry ran around the rear, records show. But Chatman appeared to reach down and grab something, opened the door of the Charger and fled southeast across 75th. He ran between two parked cars and then west on the sidewalk. Toth was initially on his heels but fell behind, a federal judge has said.

Fry, who ran diagonally, claimed Chatman had a dark object in his right hand and turned his upper torso slightly to the right. He fired four shots at Chatman, records show. The teen was shot twice, his family’s lawyers have said.

The dark object turned out to be a black iPhone box.

Coffman has said the video of the shooting did not show that Chatman had turned toward the officers, as the police reports said.

Chatman kept running and turned south on Jeffery, the judge wrote. The teen then veered off the sidewalk and into the street near the curb. The judge said Toth continued to chase and that, when he turned onto Jeffery, he found Chatman lying on the street.

Chatman told Toth, “I give up, I’m shot,” before Toth put the teen in handcuffs.

Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez chose not to file charges against Fry and Toth after reviewing an investigation by the Independent Police Review Authority, a spokeswoman has said.

But Lorenzo Davis, a former IPRA investigator originally assigned to the case, said he was pushed out of the agency for refusing to clear the officers in the case. Davis told the Sun-Times last year that Chatman’s death was a murder.

Contributing: Andy Grimm