CHICAGO (CBS) — Heriberto Godinez died during an arrest for burglary in 2015, but now it’s the City of Chicago that’s on the hook for $1.2 million.
That is the proposed settlement for the Godinez’s family. They claim police misconduct.
But the payout won’t happen if some of the city’s aldermen have their way. They spoke out to CBS 2’s Tara Molina in an unprecedented way Tuesday night.
“I come to find out he was on a cocaine-fueled bender in the community,” said Ald. Raymond Lopez (15th).
Lopez was talking about the night of July 20, 2015, when Godinez – who was initially reported to be 24 but was said to be 26 in his family’s lawsuit – died during an arrest for burglary.
He was inside a Brighton Park garage.
Dashcam video made headlines at the time of the incident. It showed Godinez thrashing about as he was handcuffed, and also showed a Chicago Police officer place his foot on Godinez’s neck while arresting him and then shifting his weight.
That is behind the wrongful death lawsuit filed in 2016 Janet Godinez, Heriberto Godinez’s sister.
“The police should be ashamed of themselves,” Janet Godinez said in April 2016.
The Cook County Medical Examiner’s office said an autopsy determined Godinez died from cocaine and alcohol poisoning. A second autopsy requested by Cook County prosecutors also blamed Godinez’s death on a cocaine overdose, but a third autopsy commissioned by his family blamed his death on asphyxia, pointing to abrasions on his neck, and damage to his carotid arteries.
During the arrest, paramedics were called because Godinez was sweating heavily and had a hard time breathing. But he was unresponsive, despite medical attention.
The officers seen in the video were never charged with any crime.
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But the city’s proposed settlement, to the lawsuit filed by his family Godinez’s family has Ald. Lopez crying foul.
“To turn around and say now we’re going to pay the family of a gangbanger who died trying to get away from being arrested $1.2 million?” Lopez said. “It’s completely insulting.”
Lopez called Godinez a known gang member with a lengthy history in the community he was arrested in, a community still plagued by gangs.
“Don’t be afraid to fight back,” Lopez said. “Don’t be afraid to defend the neighborhoods where you know that the person suing us terrorized those people, destroyed property, and negatively impacted the quality of life.”
Last week, Lopez did not mince words in a tweet on the subject: “No way in hell I’m voting to give $1.2 Million to the estate of a coked-out gang banger that died resisting arrest!”
No way in hell I’m voting to give $1.2 Million to the estate of a coked-out gang banger that died resisting arrest!
That’s money that could be spent fixing the lights his gang buddies keep vandalizing instead or adding nearly fifty police camera to the community he terrorized!
— Ald. Raymond Lopez (@RLopez15thWard) December 5, 2019
Lopez tweeted that the money could be used for police cameras, or to fix streetlights that gang members keep knocking out by cutting the wires in the Brighton Park – a problem that CBS 2’s Molina has been tracking closely for several weeks and reported on most recently on Monday.
And Lopez is not the only alderman opposed to the settlement. Others spoke out at a meeting Monday, delaying a City Council Finance Committee vote.
“I understand police brutality. I understand when the city’s at fault,” Lopez said. “What I will never understand is why we have to pay gangbangers and their families, when they are known and involved in terrorizing our communities, why we ask tax payers to pay them off as well.”
We reached out to the attorney who represents Godinez’s family for a response to this story, the statements made against the proposed settlement. He got back to us Tuesday night and said says the family plans to speak out after the committee vote.
That’s set to happen on Wednesday at 9 a.m. If it passes, the whole council will vote on Wednesday, Dec. 18.