Woman dragged by cops at Brickyard mall to share in $1.67M settlement

The settlement is on the agenda for Thursday’s Finance Committee meeting. Mia Wright claims the violent actions by Chicago police in May 2020 left her blind in her right eye, possibly ending her dream of becoming a paramedic.

SHARE Woman dragged by cops at Brickyard mall to share in $1.67M settlement
Mia Wright, who said a police officer grabbed her out of her car by her hair and knelt on her neck outside Brickyard Mall in June 2020, speaks during a press conference near 314 N. Loomis St. in West Town Tuesday afternoon, Sept. 29, 2020.

Mia Wright, who said a police officer grabbed her out of her car by her hair and knelt on her neck outside Brickyard Mall in June 2020, speaks during a press conference in September 2020 after disorderly conduct charges against her were dropped.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Chicago taxpayers will likely spend $1.67 million to compensate a woman dragged from her car and pinned to the ground by Chicago police officers who kneeled on her neck at the Brickyard shopping center nearly two years ago.

The settlement is the largest of three tied to allegations of police wrongdoing on the agenda for Thursday’s meeting of the City Council’s Finance Committee.

It goes to Mia Wright and four others who were with her that day. Wright claims the violent actions by police on May 31, 2020 left her blind in her right eye, potentially ending her dream of becoming a paramedic.

The hair-dragging incident occurred during a tumultuous weekend that saw demonstrations and looting that started in downtown and River North and spread to Chicago neighborhoods. The protests were sparked by the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police.

According to a federal lawsuit filed against the city and Chicago police, Wright was in the front passenger seat of her cousin’s car when police, for no apparent reason, smashed the windows with batons and ordered everyone out.

Wright and three family members have said they were trying to exit the mall parking lot after realizing the Target they wanted to go to was closed.

Although she was complying with police commands, Wright claims an officer grabbed her hair, which had been wound into a bun, and yanked her from the car, then knelt on her back and neck while she was on ground.

“All I thought about was what happened to George Floyd and it could have been another situation like that,” Wright has said of the incident.

Wright and the other women were arrested and brought to a nearby police station. Only Wright was held overnight and charged with a misdemeanor, a charge that was later dropped.

While at the police station, a processing sergeant called Wright a “savage b----,’ the lawsuit contends.

Police had been staking out the Brickyard because several businesses at the outdoor mall were ransacked during the looting.

Wright’s allegations of excessive force were aided by video recorded by bystanders as police used batons to smash the windows of the car Wright was in, which belonged to her cousin.

Police initially said she “was observed by responding officers assembled with 3 or more persons for the purpose of using force or violence to disturb the peace” a claim Wright has said, “makes no sense.”

Mia Wright, 25, cries as she listens to her attorney, Nenye Uche, discuss a violent encounter she had with Chicago police officers during a press conference in the parking lot of the Brickyard Mall on the West Side, Thursday morning, June 4, 2020.

Mia Wright (left) joined her attorney, Nenye Uche (center), at Brickyard shopping center for a news conference in June 2020. Uche discussed a violent encounter Wright had with Chicago police officers in a mall parking lot just days before.

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

Two officers were stripped of their police powers pending the outcome of an investigation by the Civilian Office of Police Accountability.

COPA closed the case in September and sent it to Chicago Police Department Supt. David Brown, who had 60 days to review COPA’s recommendation, with the option of a 30-day extension, according to spokesperson Jennifer Rottner. The recommendation is now before the Department of Law.

Only after the Law Department has made a final decision will COPA be free to “share the summary report, which will detail what, if any, discipline” was recommended, Rottner said.

The Brickyard video was roundly condemned — by Mayor Lori Lightfoot and others — as an example of excessive force.

But Fraternal Order of Police President John Catanzara argued at the time that those officers had “valid reasons” for their actions. He filed a complaint with the Illinois Labor Relations Board to protest the police department’s decision to strip those and dozens of other officers of their police powers while investigations into the complaints filed against them were pending.

“They absolutely were looting. There is confirmation that the subject who was seen breaking the window was in the car. The hammer was in the car that was used. They were stopping that vehicle for a reason. ... It almost ran over officers who attempted to initially stop it and got cornered at the other end of the parking lot. And that’s where the video picks up,” Catanzara told the Sun-Times then.

Ald. Gilbert Villegas (36th) whose ward includes the shopping center, was among those condemning the behavior seen in video. But Villegas changed his tune after hearing Catanzara’s version of events.

“If they were, indeed, looting, obviously the police officers had every right to pull ‘em over and do what they had to do as it relates to making sure there is law and order,” Villegas said then.

Wednesday, Villegas said he supports the $1.67 million settlement — whether or not Catanzara’s version of the incident was correct.

“No one deserves to be treated that way. If someone does something wrong, we would like to treat them the same way that we would like our family to be treated,” Villegas said.

“Apprehending them, questioning them or whatever — we’ve got to do it in a way that respects people. With dignity.”

Villegas urged CPD to use the incident “as an opportunity to train officers so this doesn’t occur again.”

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