BELMONT CRAGIN — A police officer who attacked a carload of Black people at Brickyard Mall in 2020, dragging a woman by her hair and pinning her to the ground, has been fired from the department.
The Chicago Police Board voted unanimously Thursday to fire Officer David Laskus for attacking Mia Wright in May 2020, an incident that was caught on video.
Board members agreed Laskus used unreasonable force, lied about pulling Wright out of the car by her hair, arrested Wright without cause, falsely claimed someone in the car was wielding a hammer, illegally searched the car Wright was in, unjustifiably damaged the car by breaking the windows with his baton and did not file proper reports on the incident, according to the written decision.
Former Supt. David Brown and the Civilian Office of Police Accountability previously recommended Laskus be fired for his conduct.
The attack occurred as the city was reeling from Minneapolis police killing George Floyd, sparking protests and looting. Those circumstances did not justify the attack against Wright, the board said.
“While the Board understands Respondent was faced with challenging circumstances during the period of civil unrest that took place following the death of George Floyd, [Laskus’] response to these circumstances was unjustified,” according to the board’s decision.
“Chicago police officers often encounter difficult and stressful situations in which they must act with little or no time for reflection. [Laskus’] actions toward Ms. Wright and the other occupants of the vehicle demonstrated a lack of the judgment that is required of officers and were serious violations of the Fourth Amendment and of CPD policy.”
Wright, Tnika Tate and three others were headed to the Brickyard Mall, 2600 N. Narragansett Ave., the afternoon of the attack to pick up some supplies for a small birthday celebration, only to discover the mall was closed due to looting the night before, Tate said at the time.
Ald. Gilbert Villegas (36th) said the mall was closed as neighbors worked to repair the damage.
As Tate started to drive away and pull out of the parking lot, about a dozen officers rushed her car with guns drawn and beat the car with their batons, Tate and Wright have 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. A male family friend was also pulled from the car.
“It was devastating because there was nothing we could do,” Tate told Block Club at the time.
WARNING: Video contains violent encounter.
Days after the attack, Wright told Block Club she had flashes of the Floyd killing as she was being pinned to the ground.
“It hit me at that moment. That’s all I thought about. I heard people screaming, ‘Why do you have your knee in her neck?’ That’s why people are protesting,” Wright said. “It was horrible. It was a moment I was scared for my life.”
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.
Wright was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct, though prosecutors later dropped the charges. Wright received a $1.67 million settlement earlier this year to end her lawsuit against the city and the officers.
Laskus’ ouster comes more than a year after the police oversight agency moved to fire him after investigators determined he had lied about key details in the attack and used “objectively unreasonable force” against Wright, according to the agency’s report and Police Board charges.
The oversight agency found Laskus 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 the agency’s report.
Laskus was also charged with lying to investigators and failing to adequately document the encounter. Laskus lied to the Civilian Office of Police Accountability 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.
The oversight agency also moved to fire Officer Patrick Dwyer for hurling racist and sexist slurs during the attack.
When a bystander approached the car and tried to stop officers from pulling people out of it, Dwyer called the person a “f—ing animal,” a “c—-,” “a b—-,” a “s—head,” a “whore” and other slurs, according to investigators. Dwyer also said “shines,” a racial slur, according to the report.
Dwyer should have been fired for verbally abusing various people at the scene with “profanities and derogatory remarks,” according to the Civilian Office of Police Accountability.
Dwyer was not fired and retired in July 2020. Dwyer’s retirement was already scheduled months before the attack on Wright, Civilian Office of Police Accountability officials said.
The Civilian Office of Police Accountability 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 in 2022 that Dwyer retired but did not comment on whether the department would enforce the other penalties.
The oversight agency also recommended reprimands or suspensions for six other officers and sergeants who were involved. One, Officer Ray Dunker, who processed Wright at the station after she was arrested, was handed a 15-day suspension for false arrest, according to the Police Board. He retired before he could serve the suspension, according to the board.
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