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Witness to Laquan McDonald shooting files lawsuit against city

Sun-Times file photo

A witness to the fatal shooting of Laquan McDonald two years ago, which led to murder charges against a Chicago police officer, has filed a federal lawsuit claiming officers detained her illegally to pressure her to change her story.

Alma Benitez filed the three-count lawsuit against the city of Chicago in U.S. District Court on Monday.

Benitez claims that about 10 p.m. on Oct. 20, 2014, she witnessed Officer Van Dyke shooting McDonald, 17, in the 4100 block of South Pulaski, and she tried to take photos and videos with her cellphone.

Officers at the scene demanded Benitez surrender her phone. Then they then took her in a police car to Area Central headquarters, where she was detained for about six hours, along with other witnesses to the shooting, the lawsuit claims.

Benitez was questioned about what she saw, and officers told her what she witnessed was “not what really happened,” according to the suit. They told her they had video of the shooting that contradicted her account, and they pressured her to retract or forget what she witnessed.

She claims the Chicago Police Department’s acknowledged code of silence “caused the individual Chicago police officers to commit the specific acts of misconduct and unconstitutional acts” against her, and that she suffered loss of “physical liberty and emotional distress,” according to the suit.

The lawsuit, which claims unreasonable seizure, seeks an unspecified amount in monetary damages.

Benitez’s attorney, Amanda Yarusso, declined to provide additional information when reached by phone Thursday afternoon.

A spokesman for the city’s Law Department said he was unable to comment on the suit due to the pending litigation.