The family of a bystander shot dead during summer looting in Cicero suffered taunts after paramedics took a photo of the man dying, according to a lawsuit.
One retired fire department lieutenant shared the photo on Facebook with the caption, “Come to Cicero to loot and break s---! Get a free body bag!! Nice head shot!!,” according to the suit, filed Tuesday in federal court in Chicago.
But Victor Cazares Jr. wasn’t looting, according to the suit.
Instead, the 27-year-old was standing unarmed June 1 with several neighbors in an effort to protect Super Espiga Grocery, 4920 West 14th St, according to the suit. That’s when someone came up to him and shot him in the head, Cicero police said at the time.
When paramedics Justin Zheng and Gene Lazcano arrived and found Cazares still breathing, the pair delayed taking him to a hospital and instead took one or more photographs without his consent, the suit alleges.
Minutes later, retired Cicero Fire Department Lieutenant Frank R. Rand posted a photo of Cazares bloodied body to a Facebook group of over 8,000 Cicero residents with a caption wrongly implying Cazares was looting, the suit states.
The suit claims Zheng, Lazcano and Rand, as well as the Town of Cicero, violated Cazares’ privacy and slandered his name.
Cicero spokesman Ray Hanania said the paramedics never worked for Cicero, but were actually employed by Metro Paramedics. The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Hanania said the Cicero Police Department was still investigating the incident.
“When we were informed of the photo of Mr. Cazares, the Town immediately opened an investigation into the incident with Internal Affairs,” Hanania said in an email. “We do not know who took the photo, which we believe was taken from inside of the ambulance.”
Rand couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.
As a result of the published photo, Cazares’s family received taunts and offensive comments, the suit states.
When Cazares’ sister Michelle saw the picture on Facebook, she rushed home to her brother.
“I was still trying to process everything that had happened and seeing that post completely crushed me,” Cazares said in a statement. “That horrifying image will forever remain in my memory.”
Cazares was one of two people fatally shot in Cicero that weekend as civil unrest turned violent in some areas following the police killing of George Floyd. Looting hit downtown Chicago and the suburbs.
Family attorney Mike Kanovitz said the family’s grieving was magnified by the alleged invasion of privacy.
“In a town long racked by racial divisions, the cruel, racial element in Rand’s piling on about the death of a Brown person following the police murder of a Black person cannot be underestimated,” Kanovitz said a statement.