Pubdate: Wed, 15 Aug 2018
Source: Chicago Tribune (IL)
Copyright: 2018 Chicago Tribune Company
Author: Tony Briscoe



Chicago police officers pointed their guns at two young children while
executing a search warrant at the wrong address, according to a
lawsuit filed Wednesday in federal court.

Gilbert Mendez is suing the city, saying police used excessive force
when officers rammed their way through the front door of his McKinley
Park apartment last November, according to court documents. The
officers had intended to raid the apartment of Mendez's upstairs
neighbor, who was suspected of drug possession. But Mendez, his wife,
Hester, and two children Jack, 5, and Peter, 9, were alarmed when
police officers barged in with guns drawn, the suit says.

At a news conference Wednesday, attorney Al Hofeld Jr., who is
representing the family, accused Chicago police officers of having a
routine practice of "unnecessarily using force against or in the
presence of young children, which traumatizes them." Hofeld said the
accidental raid on the Mendezes' apartment underscores the need for
reforms in the impending court agreement on police practices.

It also coincides with the ongoing debate over whether Chicago police
officers should be required to document every instance in which they
draw their guns and point them at someone.

"If you are out in the neighborhoods and you are talking to people in
our city, you will discover that there is like a silent mass trauma of
untold numbers of children that experience this aE&," Hofeld said.
"It's been so normalized by Chicago policing over the decades, and it
happens with such regularity, that many of the citizens on the South
and West sides that I talk to do not even know that it's illegal
policing to point a gun at a child for no reason."

Chicago Law Department spokesman Bill McCaffrey said the city had not
yet received the suit and declined to comment.

The question of whether the Police Department will have to report
instances in which cops aim guns at people has been a sticking point
between Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan's office and Mayor Rahm
Emanuel's administration. Madigan's office wants the incidents
reported, and city officials apparently do not.

The potential consent decree, which is expected to be submitted to a
federal judge by early September, would be one of the most substantive
consequences related to the 2015 release of video of Officer Jason Van
Dyke, who is white, shooting black teenager Laquan McDonald 16 times.

Mendez's lawsuit stems from a warrant issued to search an apartment in
the 3500 block of South Damen Avenue in McKinley Park that was
believed to contain crack cocaine and drug paraphernalia.

A confidential informant told police the suspects lived on the
second-floor apartment -- information that police didn't verify,
Hofeld said.

Without knocking or announcing themselves, officers burst through
Mendez's front door, sending the boys sprinting down the hallway,
according to the complaint. Several police officers, many of whom
carried rifles, aimed their weapons at the children and their parents,
the suit says.

Gilbert Mendez was placed in handcuffs and pinned to the kitchen floor
while the children were in a fetal position in the living room with
their mother.

After overhearing officers discuss the physical description of the
suspects, Hester Mendez told officers they were looking for their
neighbors who live on the third floor, the complaint says. Shortly
after this, officers appeared to acknowledge they had entered the
wrong home. However, they continued to search the Mendez home while
Gilbert Mendez remained in handcuffs.

The lawsuit, which is seeking an unspecified amount in damages, also
alleges unlawful search and false arrest.

"At the moment during the search when officers became aware they were
in the wrong apartment -- in other words, that they were violating
this family's Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable searches and
seizures -- they were obligated to stop searching, to remove the
handcuffs from Mr. Mendez and to retreat from the apartment," Hofeld

At Wednesday's news conference, Gilbert Mendez recalled the feeling of

"I wouldn't wish this on anyone aE&," he said. "My wife was screaming
frantically, my babies were screaming and there was nothing I could

About 90 minutes after police entered the apartment, the officers left
without offering an explanation or apology, the complaint says. It
appears police didn't carry out the warrant on two suspects who were
the intended targets of the November raid.

The front door of the Mendezes' apartment, among other things, was
broken during the forced entry and search by officers. Their landlord
had to pay for the repairs, according to the suit.

Other issues have been harder to fix. Since the episode, the children
have had nightmares and suffer from anxiety, prompting the family to
consider therapy, the suit says.

Since the incident, Gilbert Mendez said he had to have a conversation
with his son, Peter, who had previously said he wanted to be a police
officer when he grows up.

"I said, 'Just like with anywhere else, you have good and bad,' "
Gilbert Mendez said. "He wants to be the good police officer."