Updated Lawsuit Against Chicago Cop Details Alleged History of Abuse

chicago police car FILE
Arvell Doresy Jr / Flickr
chicago police car FILE
Arvell Doresy Jr / Flickr

Updated Lawsuit Against Chicago Cop Details Alleged History of Abuse

WBEZ brings you fact-based news and information. Sign up for our newsletters to stay up to date on the stories that matter.

New allegations emerged Wednesday in a lawsuit against a white Chicago Police officer who allegedly called a black man and his family “animals” before using a Taser on the man’s head.

Kendall McClennon originally filed a complaint two years ago and updated it Wednesday after a Cook County judge last month dismissed criminal charges against him. Police claimed McClennon had assaulted a police officer. McClennon’s lawsuit alleges Officer Raymond Piwnicki used racist slurs and physically abused him.

Piwnicki has faced at least 94 complaints alleging misconduct since he joined the department in 1998, according to police data obtained by WBEZ through the state’s Freedom of Information Act. Six of those complaints have led to disciplinary action, according to that data.

“There are so many allegations of him terrorizing black and brown people in this city. He is emblematic of how the Chicago Police Department has failed to discipline its officers,” said Joey Mogul, McClennon’s attorney. She said Piwnicki should be fired because of the repeated complaints about Piwnicki’s excessive force and racist verbal abuse.

A spokesman for the city’s law department declined to comment on the pending litigation.

McClennon’s lawsuit claims he crossed paths with Piwnicki on May 5, 2012 during a family gathering at a cousin’s house on the South Side. At around 7 p.m., McClennon stepped outside to urinate in the alley, and Piwnicki and other officers allegedly forced their way into the backyard and attacked him, the lawsuit alleges.

McClennon’s sister attempted to videotape the incident and the camera was removed, the lawsuit claims. McClennon said Piwnicki used a Taser on his head.

“Throughout the incident, Defendant Piwnicki used racially derogatory language and insulted Plaintiff McClennon, his family and other guests at the gathering, at one point calling them ‘animals,’” the lawsuit states.

In addition to being charged with aggravated battery of a police officer, McClennon was charged with resisting an officer, possession of cannabis and urinating on the public way. McClennon was acquitted last month on all charges. 

McClennon’s lawsuit cites a number of complaints made against Piwnicki. Out of the 89 complaints reviewed, nearly half of them accused Piwnicki of excessive force, according to the lawsuit. About 20 percent of the complaints claim Piwnicki said racially insensitive comments, the lawsuit states.

Those complaints included: 

  • On August 13, 2000, a black pregnant woman alleged she got into a verbal argument with Piwnicki, who slapped her in the face. 
  • On March 23, 2002, a 13-year-old black girl said she was playing with her sibling and cousins when she threw a stick in the street as Piwnicki and another officer drove by. She claimed Piwnicki got out of the car, pushed her face with his hand, threatened to smack her and called her and the other children an obscenity. 
  • On August 13, 2002, a black woman claimed she stood outside her apartment building when Piwnicki asked her where she lived. After telling him, Piwnicki allegedly threatened to put marijuana on her and arrest her for trespassing. Piwnicki allegedly handcuffed the woman and made racist and sexist slurs. 
  • On May 18, 2011, a Puerto Rican woman drove through an alley when Piwnicki stopped her. She claimed Piwnicki told her that she was breaking the law by cutting through the alley. The lawsuit claims Piwnicki said, “You people should go back to Mexico. Because of people like you, this city is messed up.” 

Natalie Moore is WBEZ’s South Side Bureau reporter. You can follow her at @natalieymoore.

This story has been updated with new information on Dec. 22, 2016.

Kendall McClennon’s lawsuit by Chicago Public Media on Scribd