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Pilsen, Little Village, West Loop

Man Was Unarmed, Running Away When Shot And Killed By Police In Pilsen, Lawsuit Says

The family of Miguel Vega said an officer recklessly fired shots without a clear target in a residential block.

Members of the Vega family embrace days after Vega was fatally shot by police.
Mauricio Pena/Block Club Chicago
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PILSEN — Almost a year after police shot and killed a man in Pilsen, his family has filed a wrongful death suit against the city and the officers involved.

The family of Miguel Vega filed a federal lawsuit Friday alleging the 26-year-old was unarmed and running away from officers when they shot and killed him last year. 

Officers Matthew Krzeptowski and Zachary Kuta are named in the suit.

On Monday afternoon, the city’s Law Department said in an email it had not yet been served with a complaint and would not comment further “as the matter is now in litigation.” 

About 10:45 p.m. Aug. 31, 2020, officers in an unmarked squad car were driving in the 1300 block of West 19th Street when they saw five people standing on the sidewalk. Someone then shot at the police car, according to police and a witness who spoke to Block Club at the time.

Krzeptowski then fired shots, fatally hitting Vega, according to the lawsuit.

“As people were running away … officer Krzeptowski repeatedly fired his service weapon towards civilians, on a residential block, without a clear target and without knowing who was in his line of fire,” according to the lawsuit.

Vega, a father of two, was unarmed, according to the lawsuit.

“The shooting was a reckless, unjustifiable and unreasonable use of force,” the suit says.

The city has failed to adequately and impartially investigate and properly discipline officers for use of force for decades, resulting in the harm caused to Vega, the lawsuit alleges.  

Credit: COPA
The Civilian Office of Police Accountability last year released body camera footage of police fatally shooting Miguel Vega.

Last year, the  Civilian Office of Police Accountability released evidence from the shooting. It includes graphic video and audio recordings from the two officers dispatched to West 19th Street.

Footage from one camera shows an officer riding in the passenger seat of an unmarked police car with the window mostly rolled down. The video shows the officer pointing at something ahead of the car. The car stops and the officer opens his door.

The officers then appear to duck, and the officer riding in the passenger seat takes out his gun and fires several shots.

There is no audio during the first few minutes of the video, including when the officer shoots. The footage then shows the officer going up to the sidewalk with his gun drawn and pointing it at two people on the ground who have their hands raised.

That officer then approaches the people on the ground, including Vega, who is lying on his stomach and not moving. The officer rolls Vega onto his back and sees he has been shot.

As more officers arrive on the scene, the footage shows them searching Vega. 

Vega, of suburban Calumet City, was shot in his head. He was taken to Stroger Hospital in critical condition and died.

Following the release of the footage, Vega’s family demanded criminal charges be brought against the officers. 

“The police officer that shot my brother did not have any right to shooting him behind the head,” said his brother, Erik Vega. “We want answers.” 

During a news conference last fall, Vega’s mother Maria Vega said she was “waiting for justice for my son.”

Hours before the shooting, Vega was questioned by officers after someone called 911 to report gang members “standing outside stopping cars and flashing gang signs,” the Chicago Tribune reported. The Tribune reported the lawsuit late last week.

Credit: Mauricio Peña/Block Club Chicago
Maria Vega (from left), Erik Vega, and photographer and Pilsen resident Mateo Zapata, speak to reporters about police fatally shooting Miguel Vega in Pilsen.
Credit: GoFundMe
Miguel Vega and his sons.

RELATED COVERAGE:

After Police Footage Released, Miguel Vega’s Family Seeks Answers In Fatal Shooting: ‘I’m Waiting For Justice For My Son’

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