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FBI investigating another fatal Chicago police shooting

CHICAGO -- The FBI is conducting a civil rights investigation into the fatal 2013 Chicago police shooting of a motorist whose family is challenging officers' accounts that he was armed and opened fire.

A brief mention of the case was contained in thousands of pages of emails related to police shootings that the city released on New Year's Eve, the Chicago Tribune reported Saturday.

According to sworn depositions by the two officers pursuing him, Esau Castellanos was speeding at 80 mph and crashed on the city's northwest side. The officers say that when they approached, Castellanos opened fire. His family disputes that, and no gun was ever found. The officers fired 19 shots at Castellanos, hitting him three times.

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Chicago's police department has come under intense scrutiny, including a U.S. Department of Justice Investigation, since the release in November of squad car video showing a white officer shooting a black teenager 16 times. Seventeen-year-old Laquan McDonald was carrying a small knife, but the video showed him walking away from police and contradicted officers' accounts that he posed a serious threat.

The FBI is known to be investigating that shooting and several others.

In late December, there was another police shooting in Chicago. This time, two people were killed, and police admit one of them was shot by mistake.

The father of 19-year-old Quintonio LeGrier called police to say his son was threatening him and swinging a baseball bat. Ten minutes later on police radio: "Shots fired out here, shots fired, shots fired! We've got two down, two down!"

Two killed by Chicago police -- one by accident


Officers shot and killed LeGrier, a college student home for Christmas break. His mother said his behavior recently changed.

They also shot and killed a neighbor by mistake. Bettie Jones, a mother of five, had been asked by LeGrier's father to keep an eye out for the arriving officers.

"A 55-year-old lady was shot down by a Chicago police officer, and with the climate we're in in Chicago that's almost unbelievable," Jahmal Cole, Jones' nephew, told CBS News.

"Nobody should be shot down on their doorstep, but my aunt especially was not a person that deserved that."

The quasi-independent local agency that investigates all police shootings in Chicago says it also referred the Castellanos case to the FBI in the weeks after the March 2013 shooting.

FBI spokesman Garrett Croon confirmed to the Tribune it has been investigating the shooting but would not comment further, and it remained unclear why the case remained open after so much time.

The officers were placed on administrative duty only when the newspaper inquired about their status Friday. Interim Police Superintendent John Escalante said he had not been aware of the FBI investigation.

"Upon learning of this, I have ordered that both officers be immediately placed on administrative duties," he said in an emailed statement.

The officers are Juan Martinez and Shawn Lawryn. Lawryn refused to comment and Martinez could not be reached, the Tribune said. Lawyers for the city, which is representing the officers in a federal civil rights lawsuit filed by the family, also declined to comment.

In recorded depositions with the family's attorney, the officers said they pursued Castellanos' speeding car because they thought he might have been fleeing a crime. He sideswiped a car and then crashed. Records show his blood alcohol level was more than twice the legal limit. The officers say he fired at them and they dove for cover before returning fire.

But the family's attorney, Daniel O'Connor, says the man, who worked as a pizza delivery driver, was unarmed and posed no threat. Investigators never found a gun.

"The city told his daughter that her dad was shooting at the police and that's why he's dead," O'Connor told the newspaper. "They put it all over the news about how he was a bad guy and how these cops dove for cover and valiantly returned fire. It was a lie.

"The guy just had a bad accident," O'Connor said. "He needed medical attention. He didn't need to be shot."

CBS Chicago reports that the city of Chicago announced plans Sunday morning for a third-party review of the city Law Department's Federal Civil Right's division. The move comes after last week's ruling by a judge that a city attorney hid evidence in the case of a fatal police shooting.

The Federal Civil Rights Litigation defends the city and Chicago Police officers in federal cases and the review will examine the divisions standards and practices, the Law Department said in the release.

The third-party review will be headed by former U.S. Attorney Dan Webb, who will be assisted by Robert Michaels, a partner at Winston & Strawn law firm and former assistant U.S. attorney, Mary Robinson, a principal at Robinson Law Group LLC, and Steven Lubet,a professor at Northwestern University School of Law.

The law department says the review will, "will include a particular focus on discovery practices and procedures and attorney training and supervision." The release says Webb will report any evidence of past or present misconduct to the city inspector general and will provide a public written report.

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