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Lawyers for man in IPRA ruling to city: Settle or expect lawsuit

Civil rights attorney L. Chris Stewart (left), client Antwon Golatte, and criminal attorney Danielle Pinkston on Monday discuss the Independent Police Review Authority's recent ruling that the police-involved shooting of Golatte in February 2015 was "unjustified." | Maudlyne Ihejirika/Sun-Times

Lawyers for a man whom the Independent Police Review Authority ruled was the subject of an “unjustified” shooting said Monday the city should settle — or expect a civil lawsuit.

IPRA on Thursday ruled two police shootings unjustified. One involved the February 2015 case of Antwon Golatte, 37, of Roseland, who was shot as he tried to drive away from police.

“IPRA’s findings that Mr. Golatte was unjustifiably shot is phenomenal, not just for Chicago but nationally,” said Golatte’s civil rights attorney, L. Chris Stewart, at a news conference at the Loop offices of Danielle Pinkston, Golatte’s criminal attorney.

“Mr. Golatte said it from the beginning: He would never try to kill officers or run them over. Now IPRA’s report and the findings have finally validated and got him some justice,” Stewart said. “They should prepare for a civil suit that will be coming down the line unless they are reasonable and try to work this thing out. It won’t go down easy.”

The IPRA rulings Thursday marked the third time it has made a finding that a Chicago Police officer had no reason to shoot at a suspect since Mayor Rahm Emanuel installed new leadership in December after the Laquan McDonald video was released. Three such findings in six months is one more than the total “unjustified” rulings since IPRA was created in 2007 and 374 investigations.

“It was overwhelming,” said Golatte, a married father of three. “You wait for the good news for so long, and then it comes out the blue. Like they say, good things come to those who wait. I was frustrated and starting to give up, but I still had that hope it would finally come through. And it has.”

Sally Daly, spokeswoman for the Cook County state’s attorney’s office, said in an email: “In Aug. 2015, the State’s Attorney’s Office did review this incident for possible criminal charges against the police officers involved and determined that there was insufficient evidence to sustain any criminal charges.”

The other IPRA ruling Thursday also involved police firing into a vehicle, in 2013, killing 27-year-old Ryan Rogers. Rogers’ family already has settled with the city for $1 million. In both cases, IPRA ruled the officers were not in danger when they fired their weapons.

In Golatte’s case, he was charged with aggravated assault with a motor vehicle, and charges are still pending.

“Now we know with IPRA’s finding that there is no way he can be found guilty of that if IPRA is saying that the officers were not in his way,” Pinkston said. “So I’m waiting for these charges to be dropped by [Cook County State’s Attorney] Anita Alvarez’s office. We’re asking that all charges be dropped against Mr. Golette, so that we can move forward and have him fully compensated for his physical and emotional, psychological and physiological damages.”

Stewart’s Atlanta firm, Stewart, Seay & Felton, is the same firm that won a $6.5 million civil lawsuit on behalf of the family of Walter Scott, a 50-year-old black man shot in the back as he ran away from a white police officer in South Carolina on April 4, 2015.

He also has been retained by the family of Alton Sterling, a 37-year-old man killed during a police arrest in Baton Rouge on July 5. The Sterling case occurred the same week another man, Philando Castile, 32, was killed by police during a traffic stop in Falcon Heights, Minnesota. And on July 7, five police officers were killed by Micah Xavier Johnson, 25, a deranged former U.S. Army reservist, in Dallas.

“If IPRA can set the standard nationwide for trying to get justice for victims, then that’s huge, because of their history of never really doing anything since 2007,” Stewart said. “I’m saluting Ms. Sharon Fairley, the new director. She appears phenomenal. This can be a blueprint nationwide.”

The two officers involved in Golatte’s shooting remain on full duty, Chicago Police said. According to Stewart, those officers are Harry Matheos and Jaime Gaeta, and both have 34 citizen complaints between them. CPD has said it is reviewing the IPRA findings and would confer with IPRA on potential discipline for the officers.