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Chicago police chief wants officers caught on gang video fired

An amateur video shows Chicago officers Susana La Casa and Luis Contreras after bringing a young gang member to the 1600 block of North Spaulding Avenue on March 19, 2011. (WBEZ on Vimeo.)

Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy is recommending the dismissal of two city cops based on charges they unlawfully restrained a young man in the Logan Square neighborhood and let suspected gang members threaten him.

The charges, kept quiet since filed with the Chicago Police Board in September, accuse officers Susana La Casa and Luis Contreras of holding the youth, Miguel “Mikey” Castillo, against his will on the 3500 block of West McLean Avenue and driving him about six blocks south “without a valid police purpose.”

The incident took place March 19, 2011. The officers brought Castillo, a gang member, to the 1600 block of North Spaulding Avenue — the turf of a rival gang. The incident came to light when WBEZ posted a 90-second amateur video that showed the cops standing outside their marked SUV and leaving the doors open as onlookers converged on the vehicle, taunted the young man inside and flashed gang symbols.

La Casa and Contreras, according to the charges, “allowed suspected Latin King gang members to threaten” Castillo and brought “discredit upon the department.”

The officers later each “made a false oral statement” about the incident to an Internal Affairs detective, according to the charges.

The board, a nine-member panel, has the final word about the charges and the punishment. The department must show “a preponderance of the evidence,” a standard less rigorous than the beyond-a-reasonable-doubt measure used in criminal courtrooms. Max Caproni, the board’s executive director, says he expects the case’s evidentiary hearing no sooner than January.

La Casa and Contreras, both suspended without pay, did not return WBEZ messages seeking comment about the charges.

A Fraternal Order of Police spokesman says the union has no comment about the case because the officers have chosen to defend themselves privately. That counsel could not be reached for comment.

The officers have not spoken about the incident publicly but, after WBEZ posted the video, some Logan Square homeowners rallied behind them and praised their efforts against gangs.

Castillo this summer reached a settlement in a federal civil suit he brought against the city of Chicago over the incident. The suit, which alleged false arrest and intentional infliction of emotional distress, will net the youth $33,000, according to the law firm representing him.

State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez’s office reviewed the case last year but declined to bring criminal charges.

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