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Family files lawsuit on behalf of assistant principal shot and killed in Chicago high-rise

Family of man shot, killed in condo building files wrongful death lawsuit
Family of man shot, killed in condo building files wrongful death lawsuit 02:40

CHICAGO (CBS) -- The family of a beloved assistant principal shot and killed last year in his own downtown Chicago condo building has filed a civil lawsuit, alleging wrongful death and negligence in his case.

There have been no criminal charges in the shooting that killed Abnerd Joseph last year, but his family hopes the lawsuit will bring them closure and justice.

Joseph was a beloved assistant principal at Intrinsic High School in downtown Chicago.  

"That man radiated positivity, and just light," said Joseph's brother, Bryan Bien-Aime. "Like, we went to his school this morning, and the kids painted a mural of him inside the school. That's how much they cherished this man."

 Students, in the wake of Joseph's death, credited him as being their motivation to go to college. Joseph's family on Wednesday shared a video of him talking about a deal he made with one of his students.

"I said: 'Listen, if you stay out of trouble, stop throwing chairs, stop crying, keep your grades up, I'll buy you some Jordans for Christmas. He was like, 'For real?'" Joseph said in the video. "From the time we made that deal, he has held up his end of the bargain. Man, he ain't got no trouble – no nothing. He kept his grades up. He's like a teacher's helper. I'm proud of him. And I just held up my end of the deal. I just dropped off his Jordans for Christmas."

Several months after his life was taken, the wounds are still fresh for Joseph's family.  

"That moment when the shooter pulled the trigger, he might as well have aimed at each of us," said Joseph's sister, Jeanna Joseph Kelley, "because each of those shots wounded us too."

Abnerd Joseph CBS 2

Joseph, 32, was shot and killed in his own condo building, The Legacy at Millennium Park at 60 E. Monroe St., on Sept. 14 of last year. At the time, Joseph's family said he was suffering a mental health episode.

The family said police told them the neighbor who shot Joseph seven times was acting in self-defense. Police sources told CBS 2 that Joseph was seen pounding on the doors of his building and was asked to stop before shots were fired.

A 45-year-old man was taken into custody, but was released without charges.

Joseph's family said he had ADHD and had just switched to a new medication before his death.

The lawsuit alleges that building management firm Sudler Property Management, real estate company Avison Young Chicago, development corporation Mesa Development, and the neighbor who pulled the trigger were all negligent in their response to Joseph's mental health emergency – resulting in his wrongful death.

"He was executed in his own building, with building management and security standing by while vigilante justice was executed on Abnerd Joseph," said attorney Antonio M. Romanucci.

The lawsuit claims the parties involved should have waited for help to arrive, rather than taking matters into their own hands.

"We know that you need to apply proportionate force in return, so it doesn't matter to our lawsuit at all," said Romanucci, "because even if there was some sort of physical aggression on Abnerd's part, what we're saying is, what you in that situation is you step back, and you de-escalate, and you give time."

Family sues on behalf of Chicago assistant principal killed in condo building 02:38

Attorneys for Joseph's family plan to subpoena any surveillance video of the incident.

"We would know even more, had charges been brought and some of the evidence come out," Romanucci said.

CBS 2 contacted both Chicago Police and the Cook County State's Attorney's office to see whether there might be any criminal charges in this case months later. They said police are still investigating.

CBS 2 has also attempted to contact all the parties listed in the lawsuit. However, there was no response on Wednesday afternoon.

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