$500K settlement proposed for family of 21-year-old man who died in CPD custody

The family of Romello Isiah Palmer claims he was deprived emergency medical care he needed to stay alive while being questioned by Chicago Police about a September 2017 robbery in Lawndale.

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A Chicago police star on a wall at headquarters.

The family of Romello Isiah Palmer, who died in police custody, sued the city, saying Palmer was deprived the emergency medical care he needed while being questioned about a robbery.


Chicago taxpayers could spend $500,000 to compensate the family of a 21-year-old man who died in police custody — after becoming unconscious and being denied prompt emergency medical care — while being questioned about a 2017 robbery.

On Thursday, the City Council’s Finance Committee will be asked to approve the latest in a seemingly endless parade of settlements tied to allegations of police wrongdoing.

It goes to the estate of Romello Isiah Palmer, whose family claims he was deprived the emergency medical care he needed to stay alive while being questioned by Chicago Police about a Sept. 4, 2017 robbery in the 1600-block of South Pulaski in Lawndale.

The settlement resolves a wrongful death lawsuit filed in July 2019 accusing the city and six CPD officers of handcuffing Palmer without “reasonable” or justifiable suspicion to detain him and failing to seek medical attention for Palmer even after they “observed he was unconscious and incapable of responding to their commands.”

“At the time defendant officers took Romello into custody, he was not beyond saving. However, by the time paramedics arrived on scene, it was too late. Despite attempting life-saving resuscitation, Romello never gained consciousness,” the lawsuit states.

The Palmer family’s lawsuit accuses responding officers of violating Palmer’s 4th Amendment right to be free from “unreasonable searches” and claims their “deliberate indifference” to his “serious and obvious need” for medical attention violated his 14th Amendment right to due process.

It further maintains that, even before Palmer’s death, the city was aware of “deficiencies” in the police department’s general orders that allowed people in police custody to be “routinely denied medical care because of their inability to verbalize the need.”

The policy that “does not require police to request medical attention”  for those who are unconscious or otherwise rendered unable … to request medical attention” is unconstitutional, the suit maintains.

“By taking persons into custody, CPD owes them a constitutional duty … that their general orders abdicate by not requiring officers to request medical care for persons in custody who exhibit objectively serious medical conditions,” the lawsuit states.

“This unconstitutional practice is allowed to flourish because defendant City directly encourages the very type of misconduct at issue in this case, failed to provide adequate training and supervision of its officers and does not punish and discipline officers who fail to render medical assistance although it is objectively required.”

A spokesperson for the city’s Law Department had no immediate comment on the lawsuit.

At the time of Palmer’s death, a police spokesperson told the Sun-Times the officers had been summoned to the scene for a man “being detained regarding a robbery” and that the man “became unresponsive during the investigation,” prompting police to request emergency medical assistance.

The story quoted Chicago Fire Department Cmdr. Curtis Hudson as saying paramedics had responded to a call of a “person down from unknown causes” in the street.

Palmer was pronounced dead at Mount Sinai Hospital.

Last month, the City Council added $11 million to the mountain of settlements tied to allegations of police wrongdoing.

By far the largest of those settlements went to the family of a man shot in the back and rendered a paraplegic in 2012 by police officers who chased him on foot — without cause, his family claims — and denied him the immediate medical attention he needed.

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