Chicago will pay $100,000 to a photojournalist who says prominent police officers beat him and destroyed one of his cameras during the 2012 NATO summit, according to a settlement reached this month.
Freelance photographer Joshua Lott’s federal lawsuit named six officers as defendants, including Glenn Evans, promoted by Supt. Garry McCarthy to command the Grand Crossing police district three months after the summit. Evans now awaits trial on felony charges in a separate case of alleged excessive force.
The defendants also include Matthew E. Tobias, a deputy chief who retired a few weeks after the summit, and Christopher Taliaferro, promoted to sergeant five months after the summit and elected by West Side voters to an aldermanic seat this year.
The incident took place May 20, 2012, as Lott was covering a downtown NATO protest for Getty Images. He said he was carrying two cameras and his press credentials when he saw two officers mistreating a young man.
“They had him down on the ground and they were beating him with batons,” Lott said. “The officers that were beating him just weren’t happy that I was taking pictures and told me I needed to leave. I indicated that I was a working journalist and who I was working for.”
The officers returned to beating the young man, Lott said. The journalist kept taking photos.
“They came over and approached me a second time,” Lott said. “They took me off to the side of the road and threw me to ground, and I had numerous officers beating me the same way they were beating the kid that I was photographing — with the batons — and stomping on me.”
Lott said Evans, a lieutenant at the time, “hit me a bunch of times” using a baton. Tobias slammed the camera to the ground “like a football spike,” Lott said.
Taliaferro, who unseated Ald. Deborah Graham (29th Ward) this past April, was not present during the alleged beating but helped bring a misdemeanor reckless-conduct charge against Lott. The lawsuit accused Taliaferro of “knowing there was no probable cause” to support the charge.
In a text message to WBEZ, Taliaferro claimed he had “nothing to do with the facts or circumstances” of the incident and merely worked as a “booking officer during a mass-arrest procedure and should not have been included as a defendant in this case.”
A Cook County judge dismissed the charge against Lott six weeks after the arrest. The photographer’s attorneys said the officers had failed to appear in court.
Separately, Evans is scheduled for trial next week in the felony case. Prosecutors have accused him of putting the barrel of his gun into a suspect’s mouth and a Taser to his groin while threatening his life during a 2013 incident.
In Lott’s lawsuit, Evans sat for a deposition last July but refused to answer hundreds of questions. The commander cited his Fifth Amendment rights.
The Lott case is among at least seven instances in which Evans has allegedly used excessive force leading to lawsuits and city payments to the plaintiffs, according to a WBEZ review of court filings and city Law Department records. The payouts total $324,999, not counting tens of thousands of dollars in legal expenses.
All the settlements specify that the city and Evans deny wrongdoing and liability.
Law Department officials did not answer WBEZ questions about Lott’s case but the city denied his allegations in court filings. Neither Evans’ attorney nor Tobias returned calls.
The other defendants in Lott’s lawsuit included Sgt. Ricky O’Neal and officers Marek Grobla and Gary Hughes, who could not be reached for comment.
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.