CHICAGO (CBS) — A family who says police raided the wrong home last November, and pointed guns at their 9- and 5-year-old sons, filed a federal lawsuit against the city on Wednesday.
Around dinnertime on Nov. 7, 2017, Chicago police officers broke down the door to Gilbert and Hester Mendez’s home in McKinley Park, shouting profanities, and pointing assault rifled and handguns at the couple and their sons, Peter and Jack.
“One guy said you better shut the F up if you know any better,” said 9-year-old Peter.
Savini: “They pointed a gun at your Dad and your Mom?”
Savini: “and then did they point a gun at your brother?”
Jack nodded yes.
Savini: “What was it like when that gun was pointed at you?”
Peter: “It was like my life just flashed before my eyes.”
Officers handcuffed Gilbert, and pointed guns at him while he was on the kitchen floor.
“I could hear my babies screaming, ‘Don’t shoot my Dad. Don’t kill my Dad. Leave my Dad alone. What did my Dad do?'” he told CBS 2.
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Peter said he will never forget the emotional pain he suffered that night.
“The four or five people said to my Dad, get the f down get the f down we will shoot you,” Peter said.
The Mendez family now plans to file a federal lawsuit against the city on Thursday. The lawsuit accuses officers of trespassing, assault, battery, excessive force, false imprisonment, conducting an unlawful search of the Mendez family home, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Gilbert Mendez said his family did nothing wrong; and what’s even worse is police had no right to even be there, because officers were raiding the wrong apartment. The Mendezes said police now are trying to cover it up.
The CBS 2 investigators found officers from the 11th district used a search warrant filled with mistakes. Even the judge’s printed name, as required by police order, is missing from the warrant.
Police told CBS 2 they don’t have their own copy of the warrant, or any record it even exists. However, the 2 Investigators confirmed there is a separate record at the state’s attorney’s office that includes the signature of the police lieutenant who signed off on the warrant.
Hester said the officers who raided their apartment refused to show her a warrant. After officers had been searching the home for about an hour, she caught a glimpse of the warrant, and noticed the two people actually named on it lived in a different apartment in the same building.
“Even after I told them that they were in the wrong place and the people live upstairs, they still continued to search,” she said.
“My clients are filing this case to say to the Mayor, ‘We cannot have a city in which hard-working, law-abiding families with young children are terrorized by the police by mistake or because that’s just their routine practice with children, especially our children of color,’” Mendez family attorney Al Hofeld Jr. stated in a news release. “My clients don’t want their children to hate police officers; they want someone to be held accountable for what was done to their sons. The officers who did this would not want someone to traumatize their children.”
Hester said officers searched the home for an additional 30 minutes after she informed them of their mistakes, all while her husband remained handcuffed.
According to the lawsuit, police kept Gilbert handcuffed even after Hester told them about their mistake.
“There was absolutely no need to point guns at children and absolutely no need to keep their father handcuffed in front of them after they knew they were in the wrong apartment,” Hofeld said.
Hofeld claimed there is a pattern of misconduct by Chicago police officers, who regularly use excessive force against children who have not committed any crimes.
“Chicago police officers routinely traumatize young children by directing force at them or unnecessarily exposing them to it. They don’t think twice about it. This is the City of Chicago’s ongoing pattern with young children of color,” Hofeld said.
In another case, the CBS 2 Investigators obtained a video deposition of Davianna Simmons who testified Chicago cops raided her home.
Question: “How many police do you remember seeing inside your house?”
And she says the police pointed a gun at her too.
Question: “Did the — did the police point a gun at anybody else in your house that day?”
Answer: “They pointed a gun at me.”
Question: “They pointed a gun at you?”
The Simmons family sued the city, and recieved a $2.5 million settlement in June. Davianna was only 3 years old when the gun was drawn on her and she now suffers from PTSD.
According to the Mendez family lawsuit, Peter and Jack also are suffering from PTSD from their ordeal, still have flashbacks and nightmares about their father about to be shot and killed, and are in constant fear of the police returning to their homes. The boys are under regular psychiatric care and counseling.
Peter said, even after everything that happened, he tried to shake the officers’ hands as they left the apartment, but all but one officer shrugged him off.
“I just felt that they were un-polite, because I was just trying to be nice,” he said.
The suit also claims officers left the apartment without explaining or apologizing for their mistake.
A 2017 report by the Justice Department found the Chicago Police Department needs reform when it comes to how it treats children, and its policies and practices regarding the use of force.
However, Hofeld claimed recent changes to the Chicago Police Department’s use of force policy, and the proposed reforms in a draft consent decree negotiated by the Emanuel administration and Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan do not protect children from the same trauma Jack and Peter suffered.
“Until CPD changes its destructive pattern with young children, we will continue to file these cases against the City for children of color who have been traumatized by unnecessary police force and who would otherwise have no voice,” said Hofeld.
Hofeld also said the city never paid for repairs to the damage caused to the Mendez family apartment during the raid.
The lawsuit seeks unspecified financial damages from the city.
In a statement, the Chicago Police Department said, “We take these allegations very seriously. We strongly urge the family to contact the Bureau of Internal Affairs, COPA, or the Inspector General’s office.”