Chicago taxpayers will spend $10 million to compensate a young man shot in the back and rendered a paraplegic in 2012 by police officers who chased him on foot without cause and denied him the immediate medical attention he needed.
Tarance T. Etheredge III, then 21, was walking to work at Staples just before 11 a.m. on Dec. 17, 2012 when a pair of plainclothes Chicago police officers pulled over near 75th Street and Stony Island, and, without identifying themselves, ordered Etheredge to “come here.”
Fearing for his safety, Etheredge took off in the opposite direction, according to his lawsuit against the city. A foot chase ensued, with one officer chasing Etheredge through the streets of South Shore while a partner continued the pursuit in an unmarked squad car.
The partners were joined by two more officers — identified in the lawsuit as Mark Heinzel and Joseph Perez — in an unmarked vehicle and, finally, by a uniformed officer in a marked police vehicle.
The lawsuit contends the chase continued through alleyways and backyards along East 76th and East 77th streets when Etheredge stopped running in an alleyway and surrendered “when he became aware the persons chasing him were” police officers.
Although the initial stop was “without probable cause,” the suit contends Etheredge was “in the process of submitting” to the officers when Heinzel “fired his weapon multiple times,” striking Etheredge in the back.
At the time of the shooting, Etheredge was “25 feet or more away” from Heinzel and posed no threat, either to the officer or his colleagues. Neither Heinzel nor any of the other responding officers were even in the yard where Etheredge was located. And there had been “no physical contact, altercation, reasonable threat or injury” to any police officer prior to the shooting.
“There was no legal justification to point, threaten, or fire a firearm at or utilize deadly force,” the lawsuit states, noting Heinzel was the only one of the responding officers to fire his weapon.
The suit states Etheredge “was not committing a crime before or at the time he was shot” and “never posed a danger or threat of harm to any” officer, including Heinzel.
After being shot in the back, Chicago Police Officer Robert McGree placed Etheredge in handcuffs “before requesting medical attention,” the suit contends.
At some point, Etheredge was picked up “by his waistband” and dropped, the lawsuit contends. As a result, Etheredge “suffered painful and catastrophic bodily injuries that ultimately resulted in leaving him paralyzed from the waist down,” the suit contends.
In addition to excessive force, medical neglect and failure to follow police procedures, the lawsuit accuses officers of conspiring to remove a handgun from the pocket of the victim’s jacket “in an attempt to justify the use of deadly force ... by Officer Heinzel.” The gun, which the victim had the legal right to carry, “did not have Etheredge’s fingerprints on it” when it was recovered, the suit contends.
A lawsuit filed shortly after the shooting was dismissed; it was refiled in 2017 after a more extensive investigation revealed inconsistencies in the police account.
Aldermen were briefed on the $10 million settlement Monday. They’ll be asked to approve it at next week’s meeting of the City Council’s Finance Committee.
Since 2004, beleaguered Chicago taxpayers have spent well over $750 million on settlements tied to allegations of police wrongdoing.
Larry Rogers Jr., an attorney representing Etheredge, refused to comment on the settlement. His initial demand was $28 million. A spokesperson for the city’s Law Department refused to comment.
No officers involved in the chase and subsequent shooting were ever disciplined in the Etheredge case, sources said.
At the time of the shooting, then-Fraternal Order of Police spokesman Pat Camden told reporters the chase began after plainclothes officers “saw a man … with what appeared to be a gun in the pocket of his pants,” chased him “in and out of alleys” and shot him “in the upper chest” only after Etheredge “pulled out a gun” and refused to drop it.
Camden continued to respond to the scene of police shootings — and offer narratives backing officers’ version of events — until the court-ordered release of the Laquan McDonald shooting video in November 2015.
That’s when Camden’s credibility took a hit after a video was released that showed the African-American teenager was walking away from police with a small knife in his hand when now-convicted former Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke fired the 16 shots that killed McDonald in October 2014.
Immediately after that shooting, Camden had told the Sun-Times: “An officer shot him in the chest when he refused to comply with orders to drop the knife and continued to approach the officers.”