Your NPR news source

Lawsuit: Police commander's alleged battery amounted to 'torture'

A South Sider whose brutality complaint led to felony charges against a Chicago police commander takes his allegations to federal court.

SHARE Lawsuit: Police commander's alleged battery amounted to 'torture'
Lawsuit: Police commander's alleged battery amounted to 'torture'

The plaintiff, Rickey Williams, also claims Chicago has a “de facto policy” that allows “coercive interrogation techniques.”

WBEZ/Chip Mitchell

A man whose brutality complaint led to felony charges against a Chicago police commander took his allegations to federal court Tuesday. Rickey J. Williams, 24, filed a lawsuit that accuses Glenn Evans of “torture” and says Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration condoned it.

The alleged abuse took place after Evans chased Williams into an abandoned South Side building on January 30, 2013. Evans, according to the suit, put a taser to Williams’ crotch, threatened his life, and inserted his police pistol where it did not belong.

“They took the gun and put it down my throat,” Williams says in a video provided by his legal team. “They should get punished.”

Williams attended a Tuesday news conference to announce his suit but did not speak.

The suit cites a lab test that showed Williams’ DNA on Evans’ gun. WBEZ revealed that test and an April recommendation by the city’s Independent Police Review Authority that the commander be relieved of police powers.

Read all our coverage of Cmdr. Glenn Evans

Emanuel, who was briefed on the recommendation, and police Supt. Garry McCarthy lauded Evans’ efforts against crime and left the commander in his post until the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office charged him on August 27 with aggravated battery and official misconduct.

Evans’ attorney, Laura J. Morask, did not respond to a request for comment about the lawsuit. After the charges were filed, she called the criminal investigation “incredibly flawed” and said Evans’ actions were just and lawful.

Williams’ attorney, Antonio Romanucci, disputed a claim in a police report that the chase began after Evans’ spotted Williams holding a gun. Williams was simply standing at a bus stop, “not doing anything,” Romanucci said.

Inside the building, according to the lawsuit, Williams did not threaten harm to the commander or anyone else.

Police reports from the incident did not state that Williams resisted arrest, Cook County prosecutors said after charging Evans.

The commander “battered” Williams and threw him to the floor, the lawsuit says.

“More than five” officers were present during the alleged abuse, Romanucci said. “A couple were holding [Williams] down.”

The suit claims that the city has a “widespread practice of failing to discipline” officers for excessive force. That practice amounts to a “de facto policy,” according to the suit, and encourages cops to “engage in misconduct with impunity and without fear of official consequences.” The misconduct includes “coercive interrogation techniques and torture on suspects.”

The lawsuit does not specify an amount of monetary damages sought. Romanucci said the suit’s aims extend beyond money and include changing city policies.

“When you have a commander setting the example for [the] rank and file — that it’s OK to do this in order to coerce confessions — and then, when IPRA recommends discipline, and no discipline is taken, it sends the clearest message across the board to the city of Chicago police officers that [brutality] is OK,” Romanucci said.

Emanuel, in a written statement about the lawsuit, said Evans’ alleged actions, if they occurred, are “deeply disturbing” and “have no place in our city and are not reflective of the actions and values of the men and women who serve in the Chicago Police Department.”

“Our policing philosophy is rooted in community policing and fostering stronger relationships with residents and communities, because we all have a role to play in the safety of our city,” Emanuel’s statement added.

Emanuel’s role includes hiring, firing and supervising the city’s police superintendent.

A statement from McCarthy about the lawsuit said “personnel decisions for exempt-rank officers in the department are mine, and mine alone, whether it’s a commander, a deputy chief or a chief.”

At a news conference last week, WBEZ asked Emanuel how he planned to hold McCarthy accountable for promoting Evans to commander and later transferring him to the police district with the city’s most homicides — despite dozens of excessive-force complaints against him over the years. The mayor responded that the public should “hold all of us accountable.”

Emanuel then changed the subject to this year’s criminal probe of Evans. “There were questions that had not been investigated,” the mayor said. “Once that conclusion was made and the investigation was concluded, actions were taken.”

Chip Mitchell is WBEZ’s West Side bureau reporter. Follow him on Twitter @ChipMitchell1 and @WBEZoutloud, and connect with him through Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

The Latest
It’s election day, and hundreds of teens are serving as election judges. The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments today in a case that could impact more than one million student people in Illinois with college debt. Local groups are stepping up to provide shelter for asylum seekers arriving in Chicago.