CHICAGO (CBS) — Following an unusually lengthy discussion, a key City Council committee on Monday signed off on paying a $175,000 settlement to a West Side family who were victims of police officers raiding the wrong apartment four years ago.
The Finance Committee voted 21-6 to approve the settlement to Ashanti Franklin and her family following nearly an hour of debate, a rare amount of pushback on a case involving a relatively small sum for a case involving police misconduct.READ MORE: 1 Dead, 2 Injured In I-57 Expressway Shooting Near 119th Street
Ald. Chris Taliaferro (29th), who chairs the City Council Public Safety Committee, said he believed the $175,000 payout in the case is excessive, given that officers are not accused of anything more than breaking into the wrong apartment – not of any physical or emotional abuse.
“The actions of the officers in breaching the wrong apartment is indefensible. There are no defenses to it. It’s cut and dried. They entered the wrong apartment,” Taliaferro said. “This case should be settled for much less. The actual damages in this case alone are only $23,000, and we’re settling for $175,000. I think that’s too far in disproportion of the number with regards to the actual damages in this case.”
Taliaferro said he believed the $175,000 settlement would set a dangerous precedent for other cases involving wrong raids.
“I do believe we are setting a dangerous precedent by setting the bar so high when there is no egregious allegation; or should I say, setting the bar so low, because all I have to do is just have the wrong entry, and I’m entitled to $175,000, if I claim emotional distress or PTSD, which is subjective,” he said.
The aldermen specifically contrasted the Franklin family’s case to that of Anjanette Young, the woman who was handcuffed naked while officers raided her home in February 2019. Young filed a lawsuit against the city on Friday, after months of fallout and sharp criticism aimed at city officials for how they handled the case, which is also now the subject of an investigation by the Chicago Inspector General.
“This is not comparable to what Ms. Young suffered,” Taliaferro said. “There are no further allegations in this particular case to which any of us can probably conclude were egregious in context. So I think we’re setting the bar way too high for a wrongful entry, wrong address.”
Taliaferro also questioned why the FBI and DEA were not being held liable in the case, since the raid was part of a federal task force involving both agencies. City attorneys noted an FBI agent was named as a defendant in the case, but the Franklin family never served him with a summons in the case.
However, First Assistant Corporation Counsel Renai Rodney noted that, regardless of which agency actually applied for the warrant, it was Chicago police officers who carried out the raid, and clearly entered a different apartment than was listed on the warrant.
“It was ultimately CPD officers who entered the wrong apartment, despite information they had in what’s called the target packet about where that warrant should have been executed,” she said.
Police officers broke through the Franklin family’s apartment door around 6 a.m. on March 23, 2017, guns drawn, looking for someone who didn’t live there.
The target of their warrant, Gregory King, lived in the garden unit, or Apartment #1, of the building where the Franklins live, but officers broke down Franklin’s door on the first floor of the building, or Apartment #2.
Rodney said the front door to King’s apartment was clearly marked #1, and although Franklin’s front door was not visible from the street, it was clearly marked #2. However, Rodney said the officers went to the first floor, assuming that’s where Apartment #1 would be.
When officers knocked on Franklin’s door, she told them King did not live there, but the officer equipped with a battering ram claimed he saw a man he believed to be King inside Franklin’s apartment, so officers first broke down the outer door to the vestibule, and then broke into Franklin’s apartment.
The Civilian Office of Police Accountability later recommended that officer be suspended for five days, but he is fighting his suspension.
Franklin’s lawsuit claims officers ordered her 12-year-old son out of his bed at gunpoint, made racist and threatening remarks to the family, and threatened to shoot one of them if they didn’t stop asking questions.
Franklin’s lawsuit says the family repeatedly told officers they had the wrong apartment, and Franklin’s husband demanded to see the warrant and requested the officers’ names and badge numbers, only to be told to “Shut the f*** up, bro.”
“Mr. Franklin responded by saying, ‘I’m a man, respect me.’ The same defendant responded, ‘Shut the f*** up. You see six White dudes outside your door, you should’ve known to open the door.’ Mrs. Franklin told him, ‘Just because you’re White, it doesn’t make you right,’” the lawsuit states.
Rodney said police officers who took part in the raid denied ever pointing their guns directly at the Franklin family, or making any offensive comments. The raid was not recorded on video, as it happened before officers on the force were required to wear body cameras.READ MORE: Chicago Weather: Temperatures Climbing; Sunny Skies Ahead
The family also claimed they repeatedly asked the officers for their names, badge numbers, and a copy of the warrant, but officers failed to do so.
About five minutes after breaking into the Franklin family’s apartment, officers realized they were in the wrong home, and went downstairs to King’s apartment, where they arrested him without incident, according to Rodney.
Deputy Corporation Counsel Jeff Levine told aldermen, if the case were to go to trial and the city were to lose, the plaintiffs’ attorneys’ fees alone would cost $200,000 to $300,000. The family was seeking damages totaling $850,000.
“Ultimately, what we’re talking about here is an amount that is substantially less than it would be if we move forward and we don’t win,”
Ald. Michele Smith (43rd) scolded city attorneys for not being able to tell aldermen who applied for the warrant, among other questions left unanswered, but said the settlement was a fair one.
“You’re settling the case for less than the amount of attorneys’ fees that are in there, yes. And the reason they’re accepting it is because it was five minutes, and nobody got – I’m assuming – nobody got hurt,” she said. “Sometimes you’ve just got to bite the bullet and make the settlement, especially when it’s less than the cost of litigation.”
In addition to Taliaferro, the aldermen who voted against the settlement for the Franklin family were Raymond Lopez (15th), Ariel Reboyras (30th), Nicholas Sposato (38th), Anthony Napolitano, (41st) and Brendan Reilly (42nd).
Meantime, the Finance Committee approved a second settlement involving a police misconduct case by an even slimmer margin, voting 14-13 in favor of a $400,000 settlement with Pamela Anderson, whose 33-year-old mentally ill son, James Anderson, was shot and killed by police in September 2015.
Rodney said that case went to trial in state court in 2019, but ended in a mistrial after one of the jurors conducted her own research on the definition of willful and wanton conduct.
In that case, Pamela Anderson had called 911 several times to report her James was acting in a threatening manner, and needed to be taken to the hospital for psychiatric care.
Rodney said Pamela Anderson told 911 her son had a history of mental illness and usually carried a knife. When officers arrived at the home, they knocked on James’ bedroom door, and he told them to come in.
When officers walked in, James was holding a boxcutter in each hand, and came towards the officers, according to Rodney. As officers backed into the hallway, one of them tried to subdue James with a Taser, but it apparently had no effect.
One officer who had backed up against a shelving unit in the kitchen ordered James to drop the boxcutters at least twice, but when James advanced within arm’s length, the officer shot him five times, killing him.
Rodney said, although the Civilian Office of Police Accountability determined the use of force was reasonable, at trial Pamela Anderson’s attorneys planned to call an expert witness who would have testified the officer’s own conduct unnecessarily put him in a position requiring him to use deadly force.
“In particular, plaintiff will seek to exploit the officer’s decision not to call a sergeant to the scene prior to entering the home, not to call someone trained in crisis intervention, and not attempt to speak to James through the door to assess his mental state rather than opening the door and engaging him in a confined space without knowing how dangerous or violent he was,” Rodney told aldermen.
Pamela Anderson talked with CBS 2 the day after the fatal shooting and disputed police accounts that officers used a Taser on her son before shooting him.
“I wanted help for him, not to be burying him,” she said.
She had been seeking damages of $13 million, but has agreed to settle the case for $400,000.MORE NEWS: Chicago Weather: Weekend Warmup
Both settlements will now go to the full City Council for consideration on Wednesday.