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Aldermen sign off on $4.5M in settlements tied to police wrongdoing

Chicago City Hall. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

Chicago City Hall. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

Throw another $4.5 million onto the $700 million mountain of settlements tied to allegations of Chicago Police wrongdoing over the last fifteen years.

The City Council’s Finance Committee swallowed hard Monday and approved three more settlements tied to the actions and inactions of police officers on-and off-duty. Aldermen also approved a $4 million settlement tied to a fatal motorcycle accident cause by an unfilled pothole.

The largest of the police-related settlements — for $3 million — will compensate the families of a 66-year-old man and an 88-year-old woman mowed down by a car fleeing Chicago police during a 2015 pursuit through Greater Grand Crossing that, the victim’s family claims, should have been terminated.

Willie Owens and Margaret Silas were killed on Aug. 24, 2015 when they were struck by a car driven by 26-year-old Paul Forbes, who blew through a red light and was driving on a suspended license.

A 2015 lawsuit filed by Owens’ daughter, Sharday Johnson, claimed the officers pursuing Forbes for a traffic violation should have terminated the pursuit when it led them into a densely populated area, where the lives of others were at risk.

That’s what a revised police pursuit policy requires.

The second settlement tied to alleged police wrongdoing —for $950,000 — will compensate the family of 28-year-old Rickey Rozelle, who was shot to death in 2013 by off-duty Chicago police Sgt. John Poulos.

After returning home from a bar, Poulos said he spotted a man he believed to be a burglar on the porch of a nearby second floor apartment.

Poulos said he confronted the man, subsequently identified as Rozelle, asked him to show his hands and hit him on the head with a revolver after Rozelle refused to show his hands, lunged at the officer and threatened to kill him.

The off-duty sergeant told investigators he shot Rozelle in the chest after Rozelle took off while holding a shiny object that appeared to be a gun. No weapon was ever found.

The third police-related settlement — for $500,000 — goes to a family that claims police officers and detention aides ignored their 41-year-old father for more than an hour when he passed out and died in the Jefferson Park District lock-up in 2015.

Johnny Lopez was taken to a hospital and treated for dog bites he suffered while being arrested for battery shortly after midnight June 2, 2015, in the 4100 block of West Eddy Street.

Lopez was released from the hospital, booked about 7:30 a.m. at the Jefferson Park District station at 5151 N. Milwaukee Ave. and placed in his own cell about 1:30 p.m.. He was found unresponsive about 8 p.m.

According to the Lopez family’s lawsuit, another arrestee called for help “continuously” when he saw Lopez collapse, but Lopez “was left on the floor of his cell . . . for over an hour without any medical attention.”

Lockup workers processed two other arrestees, ignored the unconscious Lopez and “did nothing except pass out sandwiches to other inmates,” the suit alleged.

Lopez died of hypertensive cardiovascular disease, with recent cocaine use contributing, according to the Cook County medical examiner’s office.

“The allegations were that, when he was admitted into the lock-up, an adequate search hadn’t been done of him. That fifteen-minute checks weren’t done because the lock-up [employees] were watching the Cubs game,” First Deputy Corporation Counsel Jennifer Notz told aldermen on Monday.

The $4 million unfilled pothole settlement is obviously unrelated to police wrongdoing.

It will be paid to the family of 31-year-old Carlo Kintanar as compensation for a November, 2010 motorcycle accident triggered by a pothole in the 2600 block of South Damen. After hitting the unfilled pothole, Kintanar was thrown from his motorcycle, hit by and pinned under the vehicle behind him.

Finance Committee Chairman Ald. Edward Burke (14th) disclosed Monday that the initial demand was for $17 million.

Prior to the vote, Burke told his colleagues that Notz will no longer be briefing them on legal settlement..

She’s moving on to head the Law Department’s Affirmative Litigation section involving major cases, including the city’s pending lawsuit against Equifax.

“Hopefully, she’ll come back and ask us to approve a settlement of the Equifax case for a billion dollars…but that will be some time in the future,” Burke said.

Notz will be replaced as first assistant corporation counsel by Katie Hill, former policy director for the Cook County state’s attorney’s office.