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Family of Young Black Man Killed by Chicago Police Sue City of Chicago, Challenge ‘Code of Silence’

Cynthia Lane, Roshad’s mother

A civil rights and wrongful death lawsuit was filed in federal court against Chicago police officers and the city of Chicago for the killing of Roshad McIntosh. He was fatally shot by police on August 24, 2014.

“I lost my son, he was taken from me,” Cynthia Lane, Roshad’s mother, stated. “I’m really hurt. Roshad’s death has affected me emotionally in ways I never knew were possible. The lawsuit will never bring him back, but it will help answer a lot of questions that we have. Our family needs to know why they shot and killed him.”

Since he was killed, the Chicago Police Department has not identified any of the officers responsible. Police have refused to release records related to any investigation into the shooting.

The lawsuit [PDF], filed on behalf of McIntosh’s three year-old son, maintains that McIntosh was “enjoying a summer evening with others on the 2800 block of West Polk Street.” A group of Chicago police arrived, including defendants John Doe and Richard Roe. “Chicago police officers jumped out of their vehicles and drew their guns, pointing their weapons at Roshad and others.”

Both Doe and Roe chased McIntosh into the “backyard of a nearby residence.” Although McIntosh was unarmed and surrendered to police, Doe and Roe “fired several gunshots” into his body and killed him “without cause or provocation.”

The officers involved in killing McIntosh then allegedly proceeded to engage in a conspiracy where they completed “false and incomplete official reports” and gave “false and incomplete versions of the events to certain superiors and the public.” They also falsely claimed that McIntosh had “placed them in imminent fear of bodily harm in order to cover up their misconduct.”

The lawsuit seeks a settlement for McIntosh’s son, who has lost the “love and affection” of his father.

Additionally, the wrongful death lawsuit includes a claim against the City of Chicago for failing to “effectively investigate the shooting or impose any discipline” on the officers responsible for McIntosh’s death.

“The death of Roshad McIntosh was beyond tragic and is unjustifiable. It is unconscionable that the City of Chicago continues to fight transparency and shield the wrongdoing of their police officers instead of thoroughly investigating this and other instances of police violence,” declared Sarah Gelsomino, a lawyer with the People’s Law Office who is representing McIntosh’s family.

The lawsuit calls attention to a “police code of silence” in the city. There are 21 Chicago police officers, who remain employed by the Chicago Police Department, “despite having shot citizens under highly questionable circumstances, resulting in payments by the City totaling at least $30.2 million to settle lawsuits.”

Even more troubling, there are apparently “at least 500 Chicago police officers with more than 10 misconduct complaints over the five year period from 2001 to 2006,” who are “still employed by the department and six officers who have shot and killed civilians also have a large volume of complaints of misconduct, for which they have not received any penalty, discipline, supervision or re-training.”

The “longstanding and widespread CPD code of silence,” according to the lawsuit, was cited by a jury in the Obrycka v. City of Chicago case in 2012. Video and cell phone evidence proved Chicago police attempted to cover up and conceal how a fellow officer had beat a female bartender. The jury concluded there was “a widespread custom or practice of failing to investigate and/or discipline” officers.

Black Chicagoans are also apparently ten times more likely than white Chicagoans to be shot by police.

The federal lawsuit comes as the Chicago Police Department continues to face allegations that a facility called Homan Square is being operated like a “black site.”

The latest story from The Guardian’s Spencer Ackerman features a story about masked men basically kidnapping five people and taking them to Homan, where they were held for eight or nine hours until one of the men “dropped hte name of a prominent Chicago civil rights attorney.”

It also comes as President Barack Obama’s task force on policing has released its report. One of the recommendations involved police departments publicly acknowledging past injustices of which they committed to “build community trust.”

In Chicago, city officials essentially refuse to grapple with the fact that the Chicago Police Department has a legacy of torture. There is a reparations ordinance before the City Council for police torture survivors, but, thus far, Mayor Rahm Emanuel has refused to support it.

When considering how officials will not openly confront the dark history of policing in Chicago, it is no wonder that a code of silence reinforced by systemic racism persists and the city continues to pay record amounts for police misconduct. Payouts topped $50 million last year.

The filed lawsuit is not just about holding two officers, who killed McIntosh, accountable but about confronting a culture, which officials still refuse to change even though there have been many, many lawsuits and millions upon millions in settlements paid out in the past decade.

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Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof Press. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."