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Lawsuit filed against city, CPD officers in Grand Red Line shooting

Officers Melvina Bogard and Bernard Butler have been stripped of their police powers while the shooting is investigated.

The man shot by a Chicago police officer last month at the Grand Red Line station has filed a lawsuit against the city, the officer who shot him as well as that officer’s partner.

The six-count suit was filed Wednesday by Ariel Roman, the unarmed man who was shot by Officer Melvina Bogard on Feb. 28 at the busy River North train station just before the start of Friday evening rush hour.

“Mr. Roman is lucky to be alive,” Gloria Schmidt Rodriguez, one of Roman’s attorneys, said at a news conference announcing the lawsuit. “The first shot that hit him in the stomach destroyed part of the connective tissue in his abdomen that connects the bladder to the small intestine. As we are here today, he’s still hospitalized.”

Bogard and her partner, Bernard Butler, have been with the department since late 2017 and were assigned to the mass transit unit.

Both have been stripped of their police powers, and interim CPD Supt. Charlie Beck has asked the Cook County state’s attorney’s office to review the shooting, which was captured on video by a passerby and circulated widely on social media.

Gregory Kulis, another one of Roman’s attorneys, said that investigators with the state’s attorney’s office “wanted Mr. Roman’s version of what occurred and an interview was conducted.” The FBI is assisting with the state’s attorney’s office investigation, as well.

After viewing the recordings of the shooting, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said the incident was “extremely disturbing” and that the officers’ actions were “deeply concerning.”

Andrew M. Stroth, also an attorney representing Roman, praised the man who recorded the video and said he has been interviewed by Roman’s legal team.

“We thank God that there was a citizen bystander who had the presence of mind to capture the video of that incident on that Red Line station on that day, because without that video, we wouldn’t be here today,” Stroth said.

Attorneys Andrew M. Stroth (left), Gloria Schmidt Rodriguez (middle), and Gregory Kulis (right) will represent Ariel Roman, the unarmed man who was shot by police at the Grand Red Line stop on Feb. 28.
Attorneys Andrew M. Stroth (left), Gloria Schmidt Rodriguez (middle), and Gregory Kulis (right) will represent Ariel Roman, the unarmed man who was shot by police at the Grand Red Line stop on Feb. 28.
Brian Rich/Sun-Times

The city’s Law Department declined to comment because it hasn’t yet seen the complaint, a spokeswoman said.

The two officers saw Roman, 33, passing between cars on a Red Line train shortly after 4 p.m. that day.

Schmidt Rodriguez told reporters that Roman was diagnosed with anxiety last year. Roman began to feel an oncoming anxiety attack in the minutes before he left the train car. He was walking between cars, she said, because being able to move around helps calm him down.

Bogard, Butler and Roman got off the train at Grand. In the video, the two officers can be seen struggling to arrest Roman, who was trying to free himself and ignoring their commands to stop resisting.

Two deployed stun guns could be seen on the floor, and Bogard could be seen using pepper spray on the man while Butler tried to restrain him. Butler repeatedly tells Bogard to “shoot him.”

After Roman wriggled free and stood up, Bogard fired a shot. Roman ran up a set of stairs and Bogard fired again. Roman was hospitalized with gunshot wounds to his hip and buttocks. Roman has already undergone two surgeries and will require more, Schmidt Rodriguez said.

Though one bullet was successfully removed, the second remains lodged in his body “because it’s too close to the sciatic nerve” for surgeons to take out, she added.

After the shooting, Roman was hit with resisting arrest and narcotics charges, though Beck soon asked the state’s attorney’s office to drop them.

“Given the totality of circumstances and the department’s significant level of concern around this incident, it would be insensitive to advocate for these charges,” police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said at the time.

The shooting happened just hours after Lightfoot and Beck had jointly launched a crackdown on CTA crime that called for adding 50 officers to the mass transit unit, assigning four detectives exclusively to solving CTA crimes and building a strategic deployment center specifically for mass transit.

Publicly available arrest data from the CPD show that between Jan. 1 and March 2, 19 people aside from Roman were cited for unsafe passage between CTA train cars in the downtown area.