Reluctant Aldermen Sign Off On $9.5M Settlement In Taser Incident

CHICAGO (CBS) — Chicago aldermen on Tuesday bemoaned, but approved a $9.5 million settlement to compensate Jose Lopez, who was rendered a mute quadriplegic after hitting his head on the pavement while being jolted by a police Taser.

“As someone who votes against more of these settlements than anybody, we don’t have a choice in this $9.5 million. None of us want to pay this $9.5 million, but we have no choice,” said Ald. Nick Sposato (38th), before the City Council’s Finance Committee signed off on the settlement, the Chicago Sun-Times is reporting.

Ald. George Cardenas (12th) noted that police officers and paramedics were “protecting themselves” from a patient who became combative during treatment, took a swing at an officer and subsequently tested positive for cocaine and PCP.

“This person who was not acting properly and for all of that, we are settling to pay $9.5 million?” Cardenas said.

Finance Committee Chairman Ald. Edward Burke (14th) countered that Lopez suffered “serious injuries, catastrophic in nature” that will “require full-time, lifetime care.”

Burke further noted that there was a trial and a “finding of liability against two employees of the city.”

Cardenas was not appeased.

“It’s just hard to fully understand some of these cases. We’re trying as a city to hold the line on expenses and things are just coming at us from all angles,” Cardenas said.

“It’s hard to stop the violence. People are scared. Police officers are scared doing their jobs. Everybody’s scared of doing anything because we see this time and time again. I don’t know…what’s the aftermath of all this. But I can tell you paying $9.5 million—I know the injuries are pretty severe. But we’ve got to take stock, go back and see how we can do things differently for the benefit of our constituents and taxpayers.”

The incident that triggered one of the largest settlements in recent memory occurred in July 2011, while Lopez was being treated for chest pains by Chicago Fire Department paramedics.

Chicago Police officers called to assist paramedics in Little Village claim that Lopez refused treatment and became combative.

When one of the officers used a Taser to subdue the patient, Lopez fell backward and hit his head on the pavement.

The fall left Lopez unable to speak and barely able to move, according to his attorneys.

Burke noted Tuesday that Lopez subsequently tested positive for cocaine and PCP.

The veteran police officer who used the Taser has insisted that he followed Chicago Police procedures governing Taser use in an attempt to subdue a “combative” individual.

After a two-week trial, the jury found that the officer had used excessive force, even though he did not intend to cause serious injury to Lopez.

The Finance Committee also signed off on three other smaller settlements.

The biggest one—for $395,000—goes to seventeen people who were celebrating Barack Obama’s historic 2008 election on the West Side when they were pepper sprayed and beaten by police.

A $200,000 settlement goes to the family of a man who struck a light pole after a Taser was used on him by police officers who saw him running from a Walgreens at North and Wells after allegedly stealing a bottle of Vodka.

“The medical examiner would testify that the injury to the decedent was the result of cardiac arrest brought on by being Tased by the police officer,” Burke said, noting that the original demand was for $2.8 million.

Yet another settlement—for $120,000—stems from a wrongful arrest for possession of a firearm.

“At trial, there was testimony that the plaintiff and the other person present were friends. [The gun] was recovered from the friend’s purse,” Burke said, noting that Halderon Murphy spent 3 1/2 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit.

Last week, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan filed a lawsuit seeking federal court oversight over the Chicago Police Department.

After months of resistance, Mayor Rahm Emanuel was finally on board and vowed to negotiate with Madigan to finalize a consent decree with rigid timetables and financial commitments toward police reform.

Madigan’s lawsuit specifically mentions that Chicago taxpayers have spent more than $600 million since 2004 on settlements and legal fees stemming from police wrongdoing.

(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2017. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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