New Lenox police left ‘person in crisis’ in parking lot before man was hit by car, severely injured: lawsuit
A 24-year-old man from Jordan, who came to the Chicago area for school, alleges suburban police officers left him in a parking lot amid a mental health crisis before he was hit by a car and suffered a traumatic brain injury.
Qusai Alkafaween came to the U.S. from Jordan and planned to enroll at the University of Illinois Chicago, with “hopes of becoming a better person, someone who could do wonderful things in a bigger world that opened up to him,” his mother said in a statement.
But all that was lost last December when suburban police officers allegedly left Alkafaween, 24, in a parking lot as he suffered a mental health crisis, his attorneys said Wednesday.
Moments later, Alkafaween was hit by a car and suffered a traumatic brain injury.
On Dec. 5, 2020, Alkafaween was “acting erratically suffering from mental illness” and briefly hospitalized at Silver Cross Hospital and Medical Centers before he was released to New Lenox police, attorney Jack Casciato said during a news conference on Zoom.
The lawsuit filed Oct. 13 in Will County alleges officers didn’t follow proper procedures and protocol. Alkafaween is also suing a doctor and the Silver Cross Hospital and Medical Centers for “wrongly” discharging him knowing it could’ve put him in danger, the suit alleges.
Bodycam footage, obtained by his attorneys through a Freedom Of Information Act filing, shows an officer telling medical staff at the New Lenox hospital that they planned to “basically dump [Alkafaween] off because we are not taking him all the way to Chicago, and we aren’t taking him all the way to Orland Park.
“Hopefully, he doesn’t ping-pong and come back here to you guys,” the officer continued.
Instead of taking Alkafaween, a “person in crisis,” to a mental health facility per the New Lenox Police Department’s policies, the lawsuit alleges, the officers transported him to a parking lot at Route 6 and Wolf Road just before midnight.
Alkafaween admitted he didn’t know where he was going and repeatedly asked officers for help, according to the lawsuit. An officer can be heard on bodycam footage saying, “This is as far as I can take you right now.”
The officer told Alkafaween to keep walking north, where there are some businesses.
Despite Alkafaween’s confusion and mental distress, officers left him there, Casciato said.
About a half hour later, Alkafaween walked into a street and was hit by a car whose driver didn’t see him, Casciato said. He was transported to Silver Cross Hospital, where he remained hospitalized until Jan. 18, 2021.
It’s unclear if any disciplinary action has been taken against the officers named in the lawsuit; New Lenox Police Department didn’t return the Chicago Sun-Times’ request for comment Wednesday evening.
Casciato said Alkafaween’s cognitive abilities have diminished as a result of the traumatic brain injury and he is currently under the care of his mother.
“So right now, in all respect to him, it’s as if his mother is babysitting him as if he’s a young child of the age of 7 or 8 years old,” Casciato said.
In a statement, Alkafaween’s mother, Ikhlas Alraqad, said her son “had so much hope and promise” before the accident.
“Instead, everything is now shut off for him. Any hope for him of doing great things has ended with the inhumane treatment at the hands of those who just didn’t care what happened to him,” she said.
Casciato said the lawsuit is seeking damages for Alkafaween to ensure he can be properly cared for in the event that one day his mother, who is here on an emergency visa, can no longer supervise him.
“Although the legal system cannot give me back my son the way he once was, it is important for those who are responsible be held accountable for their reckless conduct that forever change the life of Qusai and of our entire family,” Alraqad said.