Four-year-old T.J. Jackson Jr.’s chocolate fudge birthday cake sat in an unopened box, while he and his friends played “Duck, duck, goose” one Sunday in February.
A few moments later, a door to the house flew open, and 17 Chicago police officers — with guns drawn — burst into the Jackson family’s Auburn-Gresham basement apartment, the family says in a civil rights lawsuit filed in federal court this week.
“Instead of blowing out birthday candles and having cake, Chicago police pointed guns at him, his 7-year-old sister and the rest of his family and friends,” the attorney in the case, Al Hofeld Jr., told reporters in his downtown office Tuesday.
But the officers, dressed in plain clothes, had the wrong house, Hofeld said. The man police were looking for hadn’t lived in the house for about five years, the lawyer said.
“A simple (database) search performed by my law firm revealed (the intended target’s) current address in 30 seconds,” Hofeld said.
Police officers tore up the house, he said.
“They tossed and destroyed all of the rooms, took a door off the hinges,” he said.
The family later found T.J.’s cake flipped upside down with a red-and-white numeral four candle smashed into the top.
“It was a cruel and dehumanizing joke that mocked and symbolized a 4–year-old’s ruined birthday party,” Hofeld said.
The suit alleges, among other things, that the police officers’ “conduct toward plaintiffs was undertaken with willful and wanton disregard for the rights of others.”
A Chicago police spokesman could not be reached for comment.
A spokesman for the city’s Law Department said he had not yet seen the lawsuit and therefore could not comment.
Stephanie Bures, the mother of T.J. and his 7-year-old sister, said her kids have been devastated by the police raid.
“It’s terrifying,” said Bures, who attended Tuesday’s press conference. “You have to deal with the daily issues of (the children) even wanting to leave the house to go to school.”