BELMONT CRAGIN — A police officer lied about why he dragged people from a car, used excessive force and another officer hurled racist and sexist slurs during a 2020 attack at Brickyard Mall that left one woman partially blind, according to a newly released watchdog report.
The report from the Civilian Office of Police Accountability recommended two officers be fired for their roles in the 2020 incident, during which police violently confronted people who hadn’t committed any crimes. It also recommends six other officers and sergeants who were involved be reprimanded or temporarily suspended.
Police attacked the woman, Mia Wright, in June 2020, in an incident caught on video. At the time, the city was reeling after Minneapolis police killed George Floyd, with protests held and the city seeing looting. Hundreds of complaints were filed against Chicago police officers for their response; a watchdog would eventually report the department had failed on every level when responding to the unrest.
Wright and several other people were at the Brickyard Mall to get supplies for a birthday party; as they pulled out of the parking lot, officers swarmed the car and beat it with their batons, Wright has said.
Officers smashed the car’s windows, dragged Wright out of the car by her hair, threw her to the ground and pinned her by her neck. She was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct, though prosecutors later dropped the charges.
During the attack, a piece of glass from the shattered window got in Wright’s eye, with the injury leaving her partially blind, her attorney said.
Officer David Laskus was found to have illegally detained Wright without probable cause since he instigated the arrest on claims the car’s occupants were looters even though “Laskus knew that no looters entered the Hyundai,” according to COPA. Laskus also used “objectively unreasonable force” by dragging Wright by her hair, throwing her to the ground and kneeling on her back, according to the COPA report and Police Board charges.
The officer was also charged with lying to COPA investigators and failing to adequately document the encounter. He lied to COPA by saying he didn’t drag Wright out by her hair and said one of the occupants of the car was a looter armed with a hammer, which was not true, according to the report.
When a bystander approached the car and tried to stop officers from pulling people out of the car, Officer Patrick Dwyer called the person a “f—ing animal,” a “c—-,” “a b—-,” a “s—head,” a “whore” and other slurs, according to COPA’s investigation. Dwyer also said “shines,” a racial slur, the report stated.
Police Supt. David Brown filed charges with the Police Board to fire Laskus for his role in the attack.
Dwyer should have been fired for verbally abusing various people at the scene with “profanities and derogatory remarks,” according to COPA.
Dwyer was not fired instead retired in July 2020. Dwyer’s retirement was already scheduled months before the attack on Wright, COPA officials said.
COPA instead recommended the department rescind Dwyer’s retirement identification card and retirement star and disqualify him from the Illinois Retired Officer Concealed Carry program. The program exempts retired officers from many state and local laws regulating concealed firearms.
A police spokesperson confirmed Dwyer retired but did not comment on whether the department would enforce the other penalties.
COPA’s officials criticized the leadership of Sgt. Peter Toledo for allowing the encounter with Wright to unfold in a way that violates department policy. The Police Department should suspend Toledo for 90 days for allowing officers under his supervision to swarm Wright’s car and collectively smash in all the windows, according to COPA.
Under Toledo’s watch, the officers improperly searched and seized Wright’s car, according to COPA. Officers had no probable cause to detain Wright or take her car except “Officer Laskus’ false statement that suspected looters had entered the Hyundai,” according to the watchdog agency.
Sgt. Jason Lieblick was also recommended for suspension for failing to report verbal abuse, according to COPA.
Other officers were recommended for minor punishments for their roles in the attack.
The officers could not be reached.
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