HUMBOLDT PARK — A mother of three is “totally traumatized” after a Chicago Police officer pulled a gun on her and her children during a stop Monday in Humboldt Park.
The mother and a witness are calling the incident an “unjustifiable” act of misconduct. The witness was so disturbed by the incident, some of which she caught on cellphone video, that on Thursday she opened an investigation with the Chicago Police oversight agency, the Civilian Office of Police Accountability.
A spokesman for the office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday, but a Chicago Police spokesman confirmed an officer pointed his or her weapon during the incident.
The incident happened around 5:45 p.m. Monday.
Jahaira Ruiz, 36, said she took her three daughters — ages 17, 8 and 7 — out for a drive in their Humboldt Park neighborhood to get food. Ruiz, who works as a nurse on the frontlines of the pandemic, said they stopped at Puerto Rican food stands around the neighborhood’s namesake park, but none of them were open, so they decided to head home.
As Ruiz and her daughters were making their way home, police officers signaled for Ruiz to stop in the 1500 block of North California Avenue.
Ruiz said she assumed she had accidentally missed a stop sign. But when the officers walked up to her car, one of them pulled out a gun, pointed it at Ruiz’s car and at the backseat where her children were sitting and insisted Ruiz roll down her windows and get out of the car.
A video, recorded by a witness, does not show the officer pulling a gun on the family, though it shows what happened afterwards. But Chicago Police spokesman Sgt. Rocco Alioto said an officer on the scene did point a gun.
Videos of the incident:
Ruiz said it was as if “we were criminals, we committed a murder, something you see on TV.”
Ruiz argued with the officers, questioning why she was being stopped and why one of the officers had pointed a gun at her car, which is seen in the video.
After a back-and-forth, Ruiz and her oldest daughter got out of the car and continued to argue with the officers. In the video, Ruiz’s two youngest daughters, still in the backseat of the car, can be heard screaming and crying during the argument.
At one point, one of the officers said, “We’re doing our job and we’re doing it well,” according to Ruiz and the witness.
“Even when my kids were screaming, [the officer] looked at them like it was nothing. He didn’t have no heart,” Ruiz said.
After more arguing, officers eventually told Ruiz they had stopped her because the color of her car and her license plate matched a call for a driver with a gun. Alioto, the Chicago Police spokesman, confirmed this account.
Ruiz said the officers searched her car for a gun, but they didn’t find anything so they let her go — “no apology or anything.”
Ruiz said she has no idea why someone reported the person driving her car had a gun. She said she’s never owned a gun and the gun the officer pointed at her children was the first gun they’d seen.
“My kids were screaming, crying, thinking they’re going to die. ‘We’re gonna die, we’re gonna die,’ they kept saying. It keeps playing in my head — their faces, how traumatized they were,” Ruiz said.
Ruiz said she was also disturbed the officers got very close to her and her oldest daughter and some weren’t wearing face masks, which are violations of the stay at home order. She said one of her daughters has asthma and is at higher risk of getting very sick from coronavirus.
Nicole Negrete, the witness who captured some of the incident on video, said it was heartbreaking to watch the incident unfold. She said the officers’ conduct was “unjustifiable.”
Negrete, who lives in Logan Square, said she was rollerblading around the neighborhood when she skated near where police stopped Ruiz’s car.
“Cops are allowed to just blindly pull a weapon on a car without really knowing who’s in it after getting some sort of vague report,” Negrete said.
Ruiz said her children remain shaken by the encounter. One daughter keeps having nightmares about her mother going to jail.
“They don’t want to go outside anymore. They haven’t been outdoors since,” Ruiz said.
Ruiz said she feels justified in getting as angry as she did because the officers threatened her family’s safety.
“I’m not going to apologize for being scared and upset and trying to protect my children,” she said. “They’re scared. They have every right to be screaming and crying. And, as a parent, I have every right to ask questions and every right to be upset.”
That this happened in the middle of a global pandemic makes it even harder to swallow.
“What was supposed to be a simple drive, me getting some fresh air, turned out to be horrific,” Ruiz said.
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