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Dexter Reed's family files federal lawsuit over deadly Chicago police shootout

Dexter Reed's family sues city over fatal Chicago police shooting
Dexter Reed's family sues city over fatal Chicago police shooting 01:05

CHICAGO (CBS) -- The family of Dexter Reed on Wednesday filed a federal lawsuit against the city of Chicago and five police officers involved in the shootout that killed him last month in Humboldt Park.

The civil rights lawsuit filed by Reed's mother accuses police of using "brutally violent, militarized policing tactics" during a traffic stop on March 21.

"Dexter Reed is not alive today because of the actions of these officers, and the inactions of the city of Chicago. The family filed the lawsuit today knowing nothing brings Dexter back, but this family doesn't want it to happen to yet another family in the city of Chicago," attorney Andrew Stroth said.

The Civilian Office of Police Accountability has said Reed, 26, fired first in the shootout that ended in his death, wounding one of the five officers involved in the traffic stop, before the four other officers returned fire, shooting a total of 96 times in 41 seconds, killing Reed.

Family claims police had no valid reason to pull Reed over

The lawsuit filed by Reed's mother accuses the officers of violating Chicago Police Department policy during the traffic stop, by failing to use any de-escalation tactics, and pointing their weapons at Reed. The lawsuit also claims the traffic stop itself was improper.

"The initial stop was unlawful and pretextual. Defendant Officers had no reasonable suspicion that Dexter violated any law, and they falsely stated otherwise in official CPD reports," the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit also claims the officers failed to identify themselves as police, or explain why they had pulled him over before pointing guns at him.

COPA chief administrator Andrea Kersten has said officers stopped Reed for "purportedly not wearing a seatbelt." But a letter issued 11 days after the incident indicated that the oversight agency doubted a seatbelt violation was really the reason.

According to the Reed family's lawsuit, the officers sideswiped Reed's vehicle with an unmarked police car, got out brandishing weapons and wearing civilian clothing, and escalated the situation by pointing guns at him, "exponentially increasing the risk of death for everyone."

Investigators say Reed fired first in deadly shootout

In body camera video released by COPA, officers can be heard telling Reed to roll down his window after he was stopped, and asking him "what are you doing?"

After rolling down his window, Reed then starts rolling his window up, prompting officers to repeatedly tell him "don't roll the window up" and "unlock the doors."

COPA has said Reed didn't obey the officers' commands, and fired the first shots, shooting one of the officers in the wrist.

The Reed's family lawsuit does not mention Reed firing his gun, but claims he "became flustered" when ordered to lower his windows, and "mistakenly partially rolled up the driver's side window instead of rolling down the vehicles' other windows."

"The fact that Dexter had committed no violation, but was still subject to Defendant Officers' aggressive threats undoubtedly created confusion and panic for Dexter," the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit claims the officers "unloaded a barrage of bullets" at Reed while he was still inside his vehicle, and continued shooting after he got out of the car "unarmed, with hands empty and raised in sign of surrender."

The lawsuit also notes none of the five officers who pulled Reed over provided first aid after the shootout.

"Eventually, other CPD officers who arrived at the scene, immediately provided Dexter with chest compressions and other potentially lifesaving aid. Their efforts came too late to save Dexter. He was pronounced dead later that day," the lawsuit states.

Reed's family has described him as "a sweet and respectful young man" who loved cooking health food and wanted to become a sportscaster. 

The lawsuit also says Reed suffered from "physical and mental disabilities," but provides few details other than saying he had post-traumatic stress disorder, and claims officers should have been aware of that possibility when they pulled him over, and adjusted their tactics when they stopped him.

"A reasonable officer would know that when stopping people in a neighborhood historically and culturally known for its heightened levels of police harassment and violent traffic stops, there is a strong likelihood that the individual lives with post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms such as hypervigilance," the lawsuit states. "CPD officers could have provided a reasonable accommodation to Dexter at several moments, and they failed to do so at each of those moments."

The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages. Reed's family also has called for the firing of Police Supt. Larry Snelling and the five officers involved in the shootout, and for criminal charges to be filed against the officers. The family and their supporters also have demanded the Chicago Police Department disband the type of tactical units the officers are assigned to.

The officers were placed on 30 days of administrative leave after the shooting, and Kersten has recommended relieving them of their police powers until COPA's investigation is complete, but Snelling has said he won't do so for now, noting COPA has yet to interview the officers.

The city's Law Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the Reed family's lawsuit.

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