A man who served nearly 20 years in prison for murder filed a lawsuit Thursday against the city and retired Chicago Police detective Reynaldo Guevara, claiming Guevara and other officers framed him for the fatal shooting that took place during a raucous street celebration following the Bulls 1997 NBA championship.
Ariel Gomez was driving his mother’s SUV around the West Side with friends the night of June 13, 1997, and in the car was a pistol the teens used to fire a celebratory shot into the air when they learned that the Bulls had just beaten the Utah Jazz to win a fifth title.
The then 17-year-old Gomez admitted that later that night he fired a second gunshot to disperse a crowd that was blocking the vehicle in an alley. But he also claims that during a lengthy interrogation, Guevara beat him and was insistent that it was Gomez who fired multiple times into a crowd, killing 32-year-old Concepcion Diaz as he waited at a bus stop.
Gomez has long maintained that Guevara beat him to try to force him to confess, and bullied witnesses into naming him as the shooter who fired at Diaz.
Gomez’s conviction was overturned in February, four months after he was paroled from his 35-year sentence, when Cook County prosecutors dropped their case against him. The case was dropped on the date Gomez’s lawyers were set for a hearing at which they intended to outline dozens of cases in which Guevara had been accused of misconduct. Gomez filed his lawsuit in federal court.
In a press release, Gomez’s attorney, Jon Loevy, called for a criminal investigation of Guevara and his supervisors. The lawsuit claims CPD turned a blind eye to numerous instances where detectives were accused of framing witnesses.
“Yet again, a young man has lost his formative years to a frame-up,” Loevy said. “For the officers and the department that did this, over and over again, there has been no reckoning. The time is now for a criminal investigation into Det. Guevara.”
Guevara’s attorney, James Sotos, did not immediately respond to requests for comment. In other civil cases, Sotos has said that witness have recanted or said Guevara coerced their statements only because of threats by gang members seeking to disgrace the former detective.
To date, 18 people have been exonerated based on claims of misconduct by Guevara, who has refused to answer questions under oath about allegations of abuse and manipulation of witnesses, the lawsuit states.
Last year, Guevara took the stand in a post-conviction hearing for Gabriel Solache and Arturo DeLeon-Reyes under a grant of immunity from prosecutors, and claimed not to recall anything about his interrogations of the two men during his investigation of a 1998 Bucktown double murder.
Judge James Obbish ruled in favor of quashing the two men’s confessions, finding that Guevara had likely lied on the stand, stating Guevara’s testimony was so flawed the detective had “eliminated any possibility of… being
considered a credible witness in any proceeding.”