A 62-year-old man who claims he was “violently attacked” and falsely arrested by Chicago Police officers who broke down his front door without a warrant is in line for a $270,000 settlement.
On Tuesday, the City Council’s Finance Committee will be asked to approve the payment to Cruz Rodriguez. It’s the latest in a parade of settlements tied to allegations of police wrongdoing and one of three such payments on the committee’s Tuesday agenda.
On May 31, 2014, Cruz and Auria Rodriguez were hosting a family gathering at their home in the 1500 block of North Talman Avenue. Some guests were inside, others in the front yard.
The couple’s federal lawsuit against the city contends a group of officers jumped the exterior gate and “violently and forcefully kicked in” the front door of the home, where children were sleeping.
The forced entry occurred even though the officers had no valid arrest warrant and no probable cause to believe Rodriguez or any of the party guests “had or was committing a crime,” says the lawsuit, which named eight officers as defendants.
Once inside, the officers proceeded to “violently attack” Cruz Rodriguez without cause. They grabbed him around the neck, placed him in an “impermissible choke hold,” then “violently slammed him to the ground” and punched him in the face repeatedly, the lawsuit states.
To “justify the unlawful and unconstitutional actions and significant injuries,” the officers “falsely alleged” Cruz Rodriguez committed aggravated battery to a peace officer, obstructed and resisted arrest, the lawsuit said.
To back up those charges, one or more of the officers “agreed to write and draft false police reports and make false claims” against Cruz Rodriguez, the lawsuit said.
On May 7, 2018, Cruz Rodriguez was acquitted — thanks, in part, to a cellphone video of the alleged police beating captured by a family member that “directly contradicted” police reports, the lawsuit contends. A month later, the lawsuit was filed, accusing the city and the eight officers of excessive force, unlawful entry, false arrests and conspiracy.
It claimed none of the officers were ever investigated, much less disciplined for their behavior, partly because of a code of silence that former Mayor Rahm Emanuel acknowledged in the furor following the court-ordered release of the Laquan McDonald shooting video.
Disciplinary complaints were filed against seven officers over the incident at Cruz Rodriguez home, but police records show the case was dropped because the victim didn’t file an affidavit swearing his allegations were true.
The police report claimed officers were responding to a call of an assault in progress. When they got to the home, people swore at the officers and someone suggested calling the agency that investigates police misconduct.
Inside the home, Cruz Rodriguez was allegedly holding onto another man to keep the police from arresting him. Rodriguez grabbed an officer by his bulletproof vest and dragged him to the floor, crashing the officer into a TV, the police report said. Rodriguez and three other men were arrested for allegedly assaulting police officers.
Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi could not answer specific questions about the incident.
Six officers named in the lawsuit have been disciplined at least once for some kind of police misconduct.
Speaking to the City Club of Chicago last month, Interim Police Supt. Charlie Beck acknowledged what fired Supt. Eddie Johnson was reluctant to admit.
There’s a code of silence in the Chicago Police Department, though the “vast majority of police officers don’t participate in it,” he said.
“I expect people who work for me to tell the truth. If they tell the truth, I can deal with what happened out there on the street. If you lie about it, then I’ve got to deal with you and I will deal with you very, very sternly.”