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Finance Committee OKs Settlements In 3 More Police Misconduct Lawsuits

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Chicago taxpayers will soon be on the hook for more than $750,000 to settle three more lawsuits accusing Chicago police officers of misconduct, including a case in which a Cook County judge ruled police fabricated testimony against a man accused of throwing away a gun when officers tried to question him in 2018.

Among three proposed settlements approved by the City Council Finance Committee on Monday was a $162,500 payout to Patrick Bowden, who spent six months in jail and another year on electronic monitoring after his arrest on gun charges in February 2018.

Bowden's lawsuit accuses the officers of arresting him without any probable cause or reasonable suspicion, falsely claiming he was concealing something in his waistband, planting a gun, and falsifying police reports to justify their actions.

The lawsuit states Bowden was charged with seven felonies, but a judge quashed his arrest after determining his testimony of what happened was credible, and the testimony of an officer who testified against him was not. The charges were later dismissed.

Jeffrey Levine, an attorney with the city's Law Department, said the officers who arrested Bowden claimed thy saw him standing with a group of men in the middle of the street on the 700 block of South St. Louis Avenue on a snowy day, blocking traffic.

The officers said when they approached in their unmarked squad car, the group scattered, and Bowden walked onto the sidewalk, reached into his waistband, pulled out a gun, and threw it across the street into the snow.

Two officers then tackled Bowden and handcuffed him, while a third officer recovered a gun, according to Levine.

However, body camera footage from the arrest did not record Bowden throwing a gun, no prints could be recovered from the weapon due to the snow, and Levine said the judge at Bowden's trial found a police officer's testimony in the case "unbelievable," calling it a "fabrication."

After that ruling, the charges were dropped, and Levine said, "in the civil case against the city, the city would face some challenges in defending itself."

Meantime, the Finance Committee also signed off on a $300,000 settlement with Dnigma Howard, who sued the city and Officers Johnnie Pierre and Sherry Tripp over an incident at Marshall High School on Jan. 29, 2019.

Levine told aldermen Howard was a 16-year-old student at Marshall at the time, and had been ordered to leave school after she refused to put her cell phone away during a test, and then threw a desk.

According to Levine, school administrators and security guards could not get Dnigma to leave, so they called her father to pick her up. Her father arrived shortly before two CPD officers showed up for their shift as school resource officers.

Levine said school security asked the officers to escort Dnigma out of the building, and when the officers informed her she was being suspended and her father was there to pick her up, she refused to leave.

Surveillance video from the school shows Dnigma starting to walk away from one of the officers when he grabs her and forces her towards the stairs.

Video from the floor below shows Dnigma and Tripp entangled on the stairs as Pierre appears to be dragging the girl down the stairs by one of her legs.

"Essentially, they sledded down the second-floor stairs to a landing, and then again down a second set of stairs from the landing to the first floor," Levine told aldermen.

Police have said Dnigma tried to bite one of the officers. That's when she says she was tased.

The family's attorney has said the video shows the officers lied about what happened.

Dnigma was charged with two felony counts of aggravated battery after the incident, but prosecutors later dropped the charges.

"Without cause or justification, Dnigma Howard was thrown down the stairs at Marshall High School and beaten by two Chicago police officers. While this settlement will help Dnigma move forward with her education and life, this case highlights why police officers should not be present in Chicago Public Schools," ssid Dnigma's attorney, Andrew M. Stroth.

Levine said, since the incident, CPD has modified its orders regarding the role of school resource officers, allowing them to use physical force with students only in cases of criminal conduct. He also said the two officers involved are no longer assigned as school resource officers.

Ald. George Cardenas (12th) scored Dnigma's attorney in arguing the case is proof that CPD officers should not be stationed in schools, calling it a "no-win situation."

"I think this goes to the heart of the fact that these resource officers shouldn't even be in schools or assigned to schools," he said. "They should just extricate themselves from these situations altogether, in my opinion."

Earlier this year, Chicago Board of Education member Elizabeth Todd-Breeland proposed terminating CPD's contract to provide school resource officers for the district, citing Dnigma's case as evidence of a history of police misconduct, abuse, and violence toward minority students. However, Mayor Lori Lightfoot's handpicked board voted 4-3 to keep officers in schools. The mayor has said it should be up to local school councils to decide if schools keep police officers on campus.

Cardenas argued the incident would have been better handled by allowing Dnigma to stay in school until classes had ended, and then prohibiting her from coming back the next day.

In a statement, CPD said it "remains committed to ensuring public safety across the city, including in our public school system. The decision to retain school resource officers is decided by each individual Local School Council so that they can make the best decision for their school communities."

The final settlement approved by the Finance Committee on Monday was a $295,000 settlement with siblings Jamell, Trezell, and Janell Island, who sued the city and several officers after police broke down the door of the wrong home while conducting a raid in June 2018.

Around 2 p.m. on June 12, offices raided the first-floor apartment of a building near 52nd and Wells in the Fuller Park neighborhood. They damaged the front door in the process, handcuffed three people inside, then tore through the family's belongings before discovering they'd entered the wrong home.

Police said the officers went to the address listed on a warrant, but the paperwork had the wrong information.

"We conduct hundreds of raids every week, and we depend on different avenues in order to obtain that information. So when we do hit a wrong house, listen, that's not a good thing," then-Police Supt. Eddie Johnson said the day after the raid. "We just have to do better at ensuring that where we're getting that information from is legitimate, and we just have to do a better job of ensuring that we are hitting the right place."

The raid traumatized Terricky Pender and her three children, including her son, Trezelle Island, who said he thought it was a robber breaking in.

"I just heard a big boom, breaking straight through the door and my little brother, he had ran to the back," he said.

But the people who broke in were in uniform, and came armed with a search warrant.

"They told me and him to go to the back; go back and lay down on the ground. Put handcuffs on the back, and then told us don't move, and put their guns up," Island said.

His sister, Janelle, also was home at the time.

"When they told me to come out, they told me to put my hands behind my back and put handcuffs on me," she said.

It turned out the paperwork for the raid had the wrong address, and police later apologized.

The CBS 2 Investigators have documented a disturbing pattern of officers repeatedly busting into families' houses, pointing guns at their children's heads, and ransacking their belongings – in many cases, without even verifying whether they had the right address.

CBS 2 Investigator Dave Savini's 40-part series on wrong raids by Chicago Police led to a new Illinois law written to protect children from unreasonable police force, an inspector general investigation into CPD policies and procedures, and finally in January, a commitment from Chicago Police to change how they obtain and execute search warrants.

All three settlements approved by the Finance Committee on Monday now go to the full City Council for consideration on Wednesday.

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