By Dave Savini, Samah Assad, Michele Youngerman, Christopher Hacker
CHICAGO (CBS) – A year ago, Anjanette Young agreed to show the heartbreaking video of what happened to her in February 2019.
Images of Chicago police officers breaking into her house – the wrong house – and handcuffing her while she was naked are etched in her memory.
“I felt so violated,” Young recalls. “I was there, this man put the handcuffs on me and I have no clothes.”
Young said she still faced the trauma of the botched raid, but wanted to show the truth about what happened to her that night. CBS 2 released the body camera video on December 14, 2020 and a year later – after months of failed settlement talks – there was a legal resolution in his case.
In addition to a completed Police Civil Accountability Office (COPA) investigation into what happened, the city’s legal department is set to resolve Young’s trial. On Monday, the city council’s finance committee approved a $ 2.9 million settlement.
But Young said she couldn’t help but think of the others before her: the dozens of innocent families discovered by CBS 2 were also wrongly looted by CPD. Many have since sued the city. Although several of their cases predate Young’s, their lawsuits have yet to be resolved.
“It’s very disheartening, it’s heartbreaking because a lot of these cases happened before my incident,” Young said. “And if it weren’t for those cases, I don’t think mine would have had the kind of exposure it has had.”
And as litigation continues in many of these cases, a CBS 2 analysis found the city had spent millions of dollars on outside lawyers to defend itself. Video depositions obtained by CBS 2 also reveal the heavy emotional toll long drawn-out cases can take on those who have already been harmed by police.
Millions spent, and counting
Families CBS 2 interviewed as part of its multi-year investigation said they were traumatized after police broke into their homes based on incorrect information.
In each of these incidents, CBS 2 discovered that officers were pointing guns at innocent people, including children. Some have seen officers handcuff their parents. In one case, police handcuffed an 8-year-old boy for 30 minutes.
CBS 2 has identified more than a dozen families suing the city since 2015 for spurious raids, and a review of years of data shows the city continues to rack up legal fees out of taxpayer dollars to defend itself. From January 2015 to mid-November 2021, the city paid more than $ 2.5 million to private companies to defend themselves in these cases, before going to trial.
In 2019 alone, at least five families filed bad lawsuits. Since then, the city’s payments to outside lawyers have more than doubled. As of early January 2019, the city had spent more than $ 1,048,000 to litigate these cases. By mid-November of this year, that number had climbed to over $ 2,570,000.
Several cases are ongoing, including a complaint filed by the family of Peter Mendez. He was 9 when officers raided his home and pointed guns at him in 2017. Suspicious police were looking for people living upstairs, CBS 2 discovered, and officers could be heard on video of the body camera acknowledging that they were in the wrong apartment.
“One guy said, ‘You better shut it down if you know better,” Mendez said in a previous interview.
Since the complaint was filed in 2018, the city has paid more than $ 400,000 to private law firms to defend the case and the agents involved.
E’Monie Booth was 13 when guns were pointed at him in a bad raid in 2018. The city spent more than $ 300,000 in legal fees to private companies in the case. The Booth family lawsuit has yet to be resolved.
In 2013, police pointed a gun at 3-year-old Davianna Simmons and her mother in another mistaken raid. The family filed a complaint in 2015, claiming the child suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder after the traumatic incident. The city spent more than $ 930,000 on outside lawyers alone and an additional $ 2.5 million to settle the case.
The city settled another bad raid case last year, after officers broke into their home and pointed guns at the family at a child’s birthday party in 2019. The case has reported over $ 156,000 in legal fees to outside firms. This is in addition to the more than $ 300,000 the city has spent to settle the case.
And before Young’s approved settlement, the city also paid more than $ 46,000 to a private company to litigate its case, Celia Meza, the city’s legal counsel, said in a hearing Monday.
“It’s not fair to me, someone who works in the city of Chicago and the state of Illinois,” Young said. “… The money that I put in, these other families paying their taxes, that money also comes out of their pockets and goes into such an unfair system.
The emotional cost
Almost four years after CPD’s bad raid on Peter Mendez’s home, Mendez, now 13, was filed by a city lawyer this year in connection with his family’s lawsuit against the city.
His depositions are just one of many depositions considered by CBS 2 for this report. These videos offer insight not only into how he and other children were treated during the raids, but also how they are asked to recount traumatic moments of the raids during the court process.
In Mendez’s testimony, a town lawyer asked him to watch the raid’s body camera video.
“It always hurts to watch,” he said during the testimony.
The video shows that he had to answer questions for 3 hours and 31 minutes.
“And you think a gun was pointed at you?” The lawyer asked.
“Yes,” Peter replied.
“You were lying on the floor face down, weren’t you? The lawyer asked.
– Yes, said Pierre.
– All right, said the lawyer.
“Well, I was,” Peter continued. “But then… I could look up.” “
Three years after the bad raid on E’Monie Booth’s home, he, too, has been dropped off in his family’s trial.
“They just had, like, their guns. They were targeting us, ”he told lawyers in his testimony, recalling how officers treated him and his younger siblings.
The depositions also show how the city’s lawyers are asking the children questions unrelated to the police raids.
“Does your father own a gun?” The lawyer asked Booth.
“No, he doesn’t,” the teen replied.
“I mean you absolutely do not disrespect this question. I just need to ask to cover this fact, ”the lawyer continued. “Have you ever been detained or arrested before? “
“No,” Booth said.
Young, a registered social worker, said such questions can add to the trauma and stress families continue to struggle with after negative experiences with the police.
“So when you think of young children who are not fully developed mentally or emotionally, being traumatized again by watching a video of one of the possibly most terrifying things they have experienced in their very young lives, is totally unfair. “
Davianna Simmons, the 3-year-old who suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder after a bad descent home in 2013, was also on the other end of unrelated questions. In part of her testimony, she was repeatedly questioned about members of her family who were not related or present for the raid.
“How often do you see your father? Asked a town lawyer.
“Not often,” she said.
“Is he coming on your birthday?” He asked.
“Questioning a child about his father adds no value to the case, but it continues to cause systematic harm to the individual,” Young said.
Young said it was a long road to potential civil resolution in this type of case. She knows from experience how the process can have an emotional impact on those who have already been traumatized.
“The whole time I fought for this for myself, I always mentioned that I wanted to fight for other families as well,” Young said. “So it’s so disheartening for me to hear that these children are traumatized over and over again as they continue their process of seeking justice. “
The recent approval of a multi-million dollar settlement to Young has renewed questions about when the city will resolve the several similar lawsuits still pending.
The Chicago Legal Department did not provide any statement in response to this report. A spokesperson said the city could not comment on the pending litigation.
At a press conference on Monday, CBS 2 asked Mayor Lori Lightfoot when other business is closed.
“I can’t speak to all of this, but I can assure you that we take all of these matters seriously and will get them through the process as quickly as possible,” said Lightfoot.
“We certainly understand the pain that many of these families endured,” she continued. “And we’re going to deal with them individually, which is what you would expect if you had one of these.”
In addition, COPA said in a statement that it expects to conclude its respective investigations into the Mendez and Booth cases in January of next year.
“In light of recent high-profile COPA investigations into search warrants and the considerable public interest in search warrant proceedings, COPA remains committed to conducting full investigations and continuing to make policy recommendations. to the Chicago Police Department to further improve search warrant practices and training, ”an agency said.
After CBS 2 released video of the botched raid at Young’s home – and two years after CBS 2 began reporting on CPD’s bad raid model – Lightfoot and Police Supt. David Brown passed several reforms to search warrants. Prior to their implementation, Young and his attorney argued that the changes lacked bite.
Young said she also believed her trial and COPA’s investigation into the bad raid on her home had been “rushed up due to political publicity.” She hopes other families who were wrongly searched will soon see a civil resolution.
“I stand on their shoulders,” Young said. “And it’s so unfair, the way things turned out, I get more resolution… and it’s just not fair.” But that’s also why every time I speak in a public forum, I mention these other families because they mean a lot to me.