BELMONT CRAGIN — A group of alderpeople blocked a City Council vote to pay $1.67 million to a Black woman violently dragged from her car by Chicago police officers and left blind in one eye in a chaotic attack caught on video.
The City Council was set to vote on the payment to settle a police misconduct lawsuit filed by Mia Wright, who was attacked by officers May 31, 2020, outside Brickyard Mall, 2600 N. Narragansett Ave.
After narrowly clearing the City Council’s Finance Committee last week, Alds. Ray Lopez (15th), Silvana Tabares (23rd), Felix Cardona (31st) and Nick Sposato (38th) used a stall tactic to block a vote on the ordinance until the next City Council meeting in March.
Wright said she had gone to Brickyard Mall to shop for a birthday celebration the same day peaceful protests over George Floyd’s murder gave way to looting and property destruction around the city in 2020.
Wright saw the mall was closed and started to head home when at least 10 officers swarmed her car, screaming profanities and beating their batons on the windows, video shows.
Several bystanders filmed the encounter, which showed officers breaking the windows of the car and dragging Wright out by her hair. Officers also pulled a male family friend from the car. Wright said she struggled to breathe and feared for her life while an officer forced her to the ground and knelt on the back of her neck.
Nenye Uche, Wright’s attorney, has said the attack left Wright blind in one eye. He could not immediately be reached for comment Wednesday.
Last week, some aldermen questioned why Wright would go shopping on the city’s Northwest Side on a day of widespread looting, suggesting she could have gone somewhere closer to her North Lawndale home. Ald. Nick Sposato (38th) also questioned whether Wright and the other people police attacked had been identified by a security guard looting a Champs Sports in the mall with hammers.
A city attorney said there was no indication Wright or the people with her took part in any looting. Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) rebuked Sposato for his comments.
“You are targeted because of the color of your skin. … We have seen it every month when we do these briefings, when we do these hearings and when we do these settlements. So it is not unusual,” Hairston said. “We have a problem with racial profiling and we have a problem with mistreating law-abiding citizens.”
Wright was initially charged with disorderly conduct, but prosecutors dropped those charges in September 2020. Three officers involved were stripped of their police powers while the Civilian Office of Police Accountability investigated.
Wright sued the city and the officers in December 2020. Wright and the city reached a settlement in December, and the lawsuit was dismissed.
Two other lawsuit settlements were unanimously approved Wednesday:
- A $1.2 million settlement for Jomner Orozco Carreto and Carlos Ramírez, who sued the city after off-duty officer Kevin Bunge shot at them in December 2020
- A $1.4 million settlement to the mother of 13-month-old Dillon Harris who was in a stroller when he was struck and killed by a car fleeing from police in 2015 in Woodlawn. Antoine Watkins, then 21, was accused of being the driver and was fleeing a shooting, police have said.
The shooting that led to Carreto and Ramírez’s lawsuit occurred about 10:30 p.m. Dec. 11, 2020, in the 3300 block of West Irving Park Road.
Bunge had parked his white Jeep along the road when Carreto and Ramírez pulled up behind him to check their GPS for directions, according to their attorney. Bunge got out of his Jeep and shot at them “unprovoked,” according to their lawsuit.
Carreto, who was driving, quickly put his car in reverse and sped backward down Irving Park when Bunge shot at him, according to the lawsuit. He was hit in his hand, and shattered glass hit both men in their faces, according to their lawsuit.
Police Supt. David Brown stripped Bunge of his police powers shortly after the shooting. In March, he was also charged with aggravated battery with a firearm and aggravated discharge of a firearm.
At the time Bunge shot at Carreto and Ramírez, he was an eight-year veteran of the department who taught use of force at the police academy. A search of the city’s employment database showed Bunge no longer worked for the city.
Brad Thomson, an attorney representing Carreto and Ramírez, said he was happy the city approved the settlement but said the underlying issue goes far beyond this one incident.
“This use of deadly force against unarmed people of color exemplifies the Chicago Police Department’s ongoing pattern and practice of using excessive force in violation of the law,” Thomson said in a statement. “This egregious example of the unconstitutional use of force exposes that racialized police violence that can’t be corrected with nominal reforms or superficial training.
“The fact that this officer, who directed such flagrant violence for no reason, was responsible for training other police officers on the ‘acceptable’ use of force just highlights the depth of the systemic failures within CPD,” Thomson said.
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