A Chicago family says in a federal civil rights lawsuit filed Wednesday that police officers burst into their house without a warrant and pointed guns at two young girls and their 74-year-old grandfather.
According to the suit, five to six Chicago cops kicked open the door of Regina Evans and Steven Winters' home on August 7, 2019. The officers allegedly yelled at Winters to "get down on the fucking floor," then threw him on the ground and held him at gunpoint. The lawsuit says the officers then swept the house, pointing their guns at two girls, ages 4 and 9, as they lay in bed, as well as at their grandfather.
This is the latest in a long string of civil liberties suits alleging that Chicago police terrorized families during wrong-door raids based on faulty search warrants. The family is represented by the law firm of Chicago attorney Al Hofeld, Jr. Hofeld says this is the 11th lawsuit filed by his firm on behalf of black Chicago-area families who had guns pointed at them and their children in their own homes.
"We have an epidemic of violence, and the police contribute to it," Hofeld said at a press conference Wednesday. "Chicago police routinely do what they're not supposed to do, which is point their guns at young children, often during wrongful home entries."
The lawsuit says police were chasing a possibly armed suspect that they believed had entered the apartment building where Evans and Winters lived, but the lawsuit says body camera footage from the raid shows no sign of anyone entering or exiting the apartment building, and no evidence or reason to believe that the suspect had entered their apartment.
The suit alleges the officers then filed a false police report claiming that the suspect had actually entered the family's apartment but eluded capture by running out the back door.
The plaintiffs are seeking damages for violations of their Fourth Amendment rights. They say their family has suffered long-term emotional distress and symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
"I think the officers need to be held accountable for their actions," Evans said at the news conference, according to the Chicago Tribune. "And I also think they need better training on how to deal with people. Because I think, in my own opinion, I think that they treat blacks worse than they treat whites. I can't call them…because I don't feel like they would help me at all."
Last December, the Chicago Police Department made national headlines after body camera footage showed officers humiliating a naked woman during a wrong-door raid. Chicago police burst into the apartment of Anjanette Young based on a faulty tip and handcuffed her while she was naked, forcing her to stand in full view of male officers as they searched her home.
In March, responding to the furor over Young's case, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced a new search warrant policy for the Chicago Police Department.
"What Ms. Young experienced served as an abrupt wake up call to our entire city to the reforms our city needs and our values demand," Lightfoot said. "Every step we have taken and we continue to take will be with that goal in mind."
Despite Lightfoot's promises, Hofeld says no new rules have been issued for pointing guns at people during home entries. A proposed ordinance that would prohibit Chicago police from pointing guns at children during search warrants has been languishing in the city council for five months.
An investigation by the local news outlet CBS 2 found that Chicago SWAT teams were frequently relying on unverified search warrants to ransack houses; hold families, including children, at gunpoint; and in one case handcuff an 8-year-old child. In another case, 17 Chicago police officers burst into a family's house with their guns drawn during a four-year-old's birthday party. The members of one Chicago family say officers raided their house three times in four months looking for someone the residents say they don't even know.
In 2018, the Chicago City Council approved a $2.5 million settlement to a family who said police stormed their house and pointed a gun at a three-year-old girl.
The City of Chicago Law Department, which handles legal matters for the city, was not immediately available for comment.