AUSTIN — The family of a 13-year-old boy shot by a police officer on the West Side last week is suing the city and the officer involved, saying the shooting was “wholly unjustified” and a continuation of Chicago Police Department’s “sordid history of using excessive force.”
The federal suit was filed Thursday on behalf of the teen, identified only through his initials A.G., and his mother, Cierra Corbitt.
The shooting occurred around 10:30 p.m. May 18.
The teenager was a passenger in a stolen Honda Accord that had been involved in a carjacking in suburban Oak Park, police said. When officers closed in on the car, he got out and ran through a gas station parking lot in the 800 block of North Cicero Avenue, where an officer shot him, police said. The driver of the stolen car drove off and the vehicle was later found abandoned in Garfield Park, police said.
Supt. David Brown said the teen “turns toward” police before one officer shot him once, but it was unclear whether he was facing officers before he was shot based on surveillence video that emerged of the incident.
The seventh-grader, “did not pose an imminent threat of death or great bodily harm” to the officer since he was unarmed and running away, the lawsuit says. He complied with officers’ commands to stop and put his hands up, “but the officer still shot him — recklessly, callously, and wantonly — right through his back,” the complaint says.
“He stopped and put his hands up,” attorney Steven A. Hart said at a press conference Thursday outside Stroger Hospital, where the boy is being treated. “That wasn’t good enough. Because then he received a bullet in the back. He was not a threat to anyone.”
“They had no reason to shoot my child,” Corbitt said. “He complied with them. All they had to do was grab him.”
The shooting left the teen with serious injuries, including damage to his spinal cord, fractured vertebrae and broken ribs, according to the lawsuit.
“He likes to play basketball … we don’t know if that young man will ever be able to do that again,” attorney Andrew M. Stroth said.
Attorneys also said the boy hasn’t been charged with any crime related to the carjacking investigation that led to the chase.
“Nothing he did could possibly warrant being shot and potentially paralyzed,” Stroth said.
Hart said the shooting is “as much an institutional problem with the city’s police department as it is the officer” who shot the teen.
The lawsuit claims the officer violated the department’s use of force policy, which says the core principle is to get suspects to comply with police orders. The use of deadly force is also exclusively limited to “a last resort,” the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit also criticizes the department’s foot pursuit policies, which are required to be reformed as part of the Consent Decree process aimed at reducing excessive force and racial bias within the department.
The updated foot pursuit policy has not been implemented because police failed to meet the September 2021 deadline, just months after an officer fatally shot 13-year-old Adam Toledo following a foot chase in Little Village.
A temporary, updated policy was released last year, but it still widely allows officers to run after people. It’s been criticized by activists who say the temporary policy didn’t fix glaring issues with foot chases.
“The temporary foot pursuit policy suggests the officer should have never drawn his weapon,” Hart said. “You should not have your firearm out and carrying it in pointed at anybody during the foot pursuit.”
That failure to implement a clear policy governing foot chases contributed to the shooting, the family’s lawyers said. Attorneys representing the family of Anthony Alvarez, fatally shot by an officer in Portage Park in March 2021, have made similar claims in their lawsuit against the city.
“How many Black and Brown individuals need to be shot, killed or severely injured… for the city of Chicago to implement a real foot pursuit policy?” Stroth said.
Corbitt and her attorneys want the city to release body camera footage from the officer who fired the shot, surveillance video from the scene and “third-party” video collected by Civilian Office of Police Accountability investigators.
COPA officials previously have said the Juvenile Court Act prevents them from releasing the video because of the teen’s age. The agency cited the same provision in initially refusing to release video in Toledo’s shooting, but relented after intense public pressure.
“We 100 percent want the video made public,” Stroth said. “Many times in this city, they have tried to hide behind the Juvenile [Court] Act. The spirit of that law is to protect the parents. But Mrs. Corbitt wants the video released so people can see what happened to her baby.”
COPA and Chicago police declined comment. A spokesperson from the city’s law department said officials had not yet been served with the lawsuit and declined comment, citing pending litigation.
“I’m concerned about my child … I just wish he would have stayed in the house that day because now he might never walk again,” Corbitt said.
Listen to “It’s All Good: A Block Club Chicago Podcast”: