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Man reaches $1M settlement in suit against Evanston after violent arrest

Lawrence Crosby is suing the Evanston Police Department for false arrest over a 2015 traffic stop. | Evanston Police

The city of Evanston has settled a lawsuit with a 28-year-old man who sued the city and four police officers after he was pulled over, tackled to the ground and arrested while driving his car in the north suburb more than three years ago.

Lawrence Crosby filed a civil lawsuit against the city and police officers in 2017, asking for damages for battery, malicious prosecution and conspiracy, according to a statement released Sunday by Crosby’s attorney, Timothy Touhy of Touhy Touhy and Buehler, LLC.

The trial in Crosby’s case began Jan. 10. Before jury selection started, the parties agreed on a $1.25 million settlement, according to Crosby and his attorneys.

Crosby said he considers the settlement “a fair resolution to this whole ordeal.”

Crosby, an African-American, was a student at Northwestern University pursuing a PhD in material science and engineering when he was pulled over by Evanston police on Oct. 10, 2015, after a woman saw him get into his car and called 911 to report a possible vehicle theft, according to Touhy.

When police initiated a traffic stop, Crosby pulled into the parking lot of St. Mark’s church at 1509 Ridge Ave. and stepped out of his car with his hands in the air. He was met by five officers who had their guns drawn and pointed at him, according to dashcam video released by Evanston police last week.

The officers tackled Crosby to the ground, repeatedly striking and kicking him, attorneys said and the video showed. The incident was captured on footage from a dashcam in a police squad car and a dashcam setup in Crosby’s own car.

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In a prepared statement accompanying the video, an Evanston police spokesman acknowledged that parts of the video were “problematic” and that the department is making changes as a result, but said an internal investigation found that the officers complied with department policy.

The video also included audio recorded by Crosby’s dashcam and audio of the call made to a 911 dispatcher reporting an African-American man in a hoodie who looked like he was breaking into a car at Sherman Avenue and Seward Street in Evanston.

In the video, shown at a press conference Sunday, the woman told the dispatcher the man was standing by the car with a long bar in his hands, and looked like he was trying to pry open the door.

“I don’t know if I’m racial profiling,” the woman says to the dispatcher. “I feel bad.”

On Sunday, Crosby said he thought the 911 call and the use of force by officers were both motivated by racial bias.

Touhy said that Crosby had been touching the molding on his car before getting in but had nothing in his hands like the woman claimed.

In the rest of the video, multiple officers can be heard shouting commands when Crosby stepped out of his car, including “get on the ground.”

When Crosby did not get on the ground, they are seen charging at him and tackling him to the ground, the video showed.

He was charged with disobeying a police officer and resisting arrest, Touhy said. He stood trial and was acquitted of all charges in March 2016.

Lawrence Crosby speaks at a press conference at the Westin Chicago River North on Jan. 20, after his attorneys showed video footage of his arrest in Evanston on Oct. 10, 2015. Photo by Taylor Hartz
Lawrence Crosby speaks at a press conference at the Westin Chicago River North on Jan. 20, after his attorneys showed video footage of his arrest in Evanston on Oct. 10, 2015. Photo by Taylor Hartz

Crosby said Sunday that it was difficult for him to watch the videos of his arrest.

“This experience was quite scarring for me, and I’m not sure I’ll ever get over it in this lifetime,” he said.

Crosby said he he has struggled with PTSD, nightmares and a fear of police since that October night.

He also said that the ordeal made it difficult for him to complete his graduate studies at Northwestern. Though he finished his program, he said it took longer than he originally planned.

On Sunday, Crosby said he wants to use his experience to spark a conversation about bias and wants to challenge people “to reverse the flow of the river of implicit bias that is running through this country.”

“I want to take my experience and use it as an example for change — change that leads to a society where what happened to me is less likely to happen again to anyone.”

Lawrence Crosby earned his PhD in engineering from Northwestern University in June 2018 | Provided photo
Lawrence Crosby earned his PhD in engineering from Northwestern University in June 2018 | Provided photo

Crosby earned his PhD from Northwestern last June. He is now working as an engineer in Arizona and said he is looking forward to the future and being a voice against the racial bias he said he encountered in Evanston.

“I have just completed a three year journey to clear my name,” said Crosby, “But my journey is not finished. Today I am starting on the next leg of that journey.”

Evanston officials could not immediately be reached for comment.