CHICAGO (CBS) — Accusing two Chicago police officers of “unwarranted, unreasonable, excessive force,” attorneys for 33-year-old Ariel Roman have filed a federal lawsuit against the officers and the city, nearly two weeks after he was shot during a struggle at the Grand station on the CTA Red Line.
“Mr. Roman is lucky to be alive,” said attorney Gloria Schmidt Rodriguez, one of three attorneys representing Roman, who remains hospitalized at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, after he was shot in the stomach and buttocks on Feb. 28.
Civil rights attorney Greg Kulis said cell phone video of the shooting clearly shows the officers were not properly trained in using de-escalation tactics or the proper use of force.
“Unfortunately for the public, untrained unqualified inexperienced officers were put in a crowded public place. This was a result of the choices that these officers made to use deadly force, which was unwarranted,” Kulis said.
Two officers — Melvina Bogard and Bernard Butler — chased Roman after seeing him moving between the cars of a Red Line train, and tackled him to the ground.
Video posted on social media shows the officers attempting to handcuff Roman on the train platform. In the video, an officer is heard yelling for Roman to “stop resisting” – something the officer screamed more than 10 times.
The officers then both deploy their Tasers. But Roman breaks free, staggers to his feet and appears to wipe his face, apparently from pepper spray. One of the officers then steps back and pulls her weapon and yells, “Sir, put your hands down!” The second the officers yells, “Shoot him!”
Seconds later, the female officer draws her weapon, and when Roman walks away from the wall while rubbing his face, a first shot rings out. After that shot was fired, Roman runs up the escalator. Both officers pursue him. After Roman reaches the top of the escalator, another shot is heard off camera.
According to Roman’s lawsuit, it was Bogard who shot him, and Butler who encouraged Bogard to do so. The lawsuit accuses Bogard of two counts of excessive force and two counts of battery, and Butler of provocation and failure to intervene. The 12-page suit also says the city hired Bogard, even though she’d been arrested in 2015 for assaulting a fast-food restaurant worker.
Rodriguez said Roman has been diagnosed with anxiety disorder, and began suffering a panic attack while riding a Red Line train that day.
“One of the things that helps him cope with that is just being able to walk around, and move, and get some fresh air. So when he felt the panic attack coming, he went ahead and got up, and started walking from the corridor to the other corridor of his train car,” she said.
After moving from one train car to another, Roman was confronted by the two officers, who Rodriguez said began “harassing” him.
“He said he had felt threatened, and he wanted to leave. The train car stopped, and in his mind the encounter ended,” she said.
Rodriguez said, after Roman left the train, Bogard and Butler chased him, and continued harassing him.
“They did not place him under arrest, they did not ask him for his name, they did not ask him to give him a citation,” she said. “Instead, they wrestled him to the ground by grabbing him from behind. They tased him twice, they pepper sprayed him in the face, and then they went ahead and shot him.”
Roman’s attorneys said, while he has acknowledged moving between the cars of a CTA train — which is a violation of city ordinance — he did not commit any crime that would have warranted him being arrested, and was not armed or otherwise a threat to police or anyone else.
Roman was charged with resisting arrest and criminal drug charges after the shooting, but police later asked prosecutors to drop all charges.
“Ariel was unarmed, and the officers knew he was unarmed. He also did not commit a crime; it was a city ordinance violation. The officers – who are trained – should have relaxed, and chilled, and taken time, called backup. The notion that an officer would shoot her service revolver twice is astonishing,” civil rights attorney Andrew Stroth said.
Roman was taken to Northwestern Memorial Hospital after the shooting, and has had two surgeries already. Rodriguez said the gunshot wound to his stomach destroyed the tissue connecting his bladder to his small intestine, and the bullet that hit him in the buttocks is still lodged in his back, and can’t be removed, because it’s too close to his sciatic nerve.
“He cannot sit without pain, he cannot lay without pain, he cannot move without pain. He has many more surgeries to go,” she said.
Roman’s attorneys said he also has a colostomy bag, and he might need it for at least a few more months.
“Mr. Roman is suffering, and will continue to suffer for the rest of his life as a result of this unwarranted, unreasonable, excessive force,” Kulis said.
Meantime, Bogard and Butler have been stripped of their police powers while the Civilian Office of Police Accountability investigates the shooting. The Cook County State’s Attorney’s office and the FBI also are reviewing possible criminal charges.
Roman’s attorneys said, while there is surveillance video and cell phone video of the shooting, they have been told the officers were not wearing body cameras that would have recorded the shooting.
“We thank God that there was a citizen bystander who had the presence of mind to capture the video of that incident on that Red Line station on that day, because without that video we wouldn’t be here today,” Stroth said.
Use of force experts who reviewed the video with CBS 2’s Megan Hickey have said the footage is problematic, particularly given that Roman was walking away when he was shot.
“The law simply doesn’t allow what I saw in the video,” said University of Pittsburgh law professor David A. Harris.
“I don’t see him strike the officers. I don’t see him at any time with a weapon,” said Retired LAPD SWAT Sgt. Scott Defoe.
Both Harris and Defoe said the video does not suggest that Roman was a deadly threat. And police are not allowed to use deadly force to prevent an escape – which appeared to be what happened when the shot rang out as Roman ran up the escalator.
The lawsuit against the officers and the city seeks unspecified financial damages. Roman’s attorneys said the city also needs to make sure all officers are properly trained, noting Bogard opened fire in a busy mass transit station, where an innocent bystander could have been shot over an incident that didn’t require deadly force to begin with.