By Dave Savini, Samah Assad, Michele Youngerman, Christopher Hacker
CHICAGO (CBS) — One year ago, Anjanette Young agreed to show the world harrowing video of what happened to her in February of 2019.
The images of Chicago Police officers bursting into her home – the wrong home – and handcuffing her while she was naked are seared into her memory.
“I felt so violated,” Young remembered. “Here I was, this man put me in handcuffs, and I have no clothes on.”
Young said she is still coping with trauma from the botched raid, but she wanted to show the truth about what happened to her that night. CBS 2 aired the body camera video on Dec. 14, 2020, and a year later – after months of settlement talks breaking down – there is finally resolution in her case.
In addition to a completed Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA) investigation into what happened, the city’s law department is closer to resolving Young’s lawsuit. On Monday, the City Council Finance Committee approved a $2.9 million settlement, and the full City Council gave the settlement final approval on Wednesday by a 48-0 vote.
But Young said she can’t help but think of the others before her: the dozens of innocent families who CBS 2 uncovered were also wrongly raided by CPD. Many have since sued the city. While several of their cases predate Young’s case, their lawsuits have not yet been resolved.
“It’s very disheartening, it’s heartbreaking, because a lot of these cases happened before my incident,” Young said. “And if it wasn’t for those cases, I don’t believe mine would’ve gotten the type of exposure that it did.”
And as litigation continues in many of these cases, a CBS 2 analysis found the city has spent millions of dollars on outside attorneys to defend itself. Video depositions obtained by CBS 2 also reveal the ongoing emotional toll years-long cases can take on those who were already wronged by the police.
Millions Spent, And Counting
Families interviewed by CBS 2 as part of its years-long investigation said they were traumatized after police burst into their homes based on incorrect information.
In each of those incidents, CBS 2 found officers pointed guns at innocent people, including children. Some witnessed officers handcuffing their parents. In one case, police handcuffed an 8-year-old boy for 30 minutes.
CBS 2 identified more than a dozen families who sued the city since 2015 for wrong raids, and a review of years’ worth of data shows the city continues to rack up legal costs on taxpayers’ dime to defend itself. From January of 2015 through mid-November of 2021, the city paid private firms more than $2.5 million to fight some of these cases, before going to trial.
In 2019 alone, at least five families filed wrong raid lawsuits. Since then, the city’s payments to outside attorneys more than doubled. In early January of 2019, the city spent more than $1,048,000 litigating these cases. As of mid November of this year, that spiked to more than $2,570,000.
Several cases are ongoing, including a lawsuit filed by the family of Peter Mendez. He was 9 years old when officers wrongly raided his home and pointed guns at him in 2017. The suspect police were looking for lived upstairs, CBS 2 found, and officers could be heard on body camera video acknowledging they were in the wrong apartment.
“One guy said, ‘You better shut the F up if you know any better,” Mendez said in a previous interview.
Since the lawsuit was filed in 2018, the city has paid private law firms more than $400,000 to defend that case and the officers involved.
E’Monie Booth was 13 when he had guns pointed at him during a wrong raid in 2018. The city has spent more than $300,000 on legal fees to private firms in that case. The Booth family’s lawsuit has not yet been resolved.
In 2013, police officers pointed a gun at 3-year-old Davianna Simmons and her mother during another wrong raid. The family filed a lawsuit in 2015, saying the child now suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. The city spent more than $930,000 on outside attorneys alone, and an additional $2.5 million to settle the case.
The city settled another wrong raid case last year, after officers burst into a home and pointed guns at the family during a child’s birthday party in 2019. The case racked up more than $156,000 in legal fees to outside firms. That’s in addition to the more than $300,000 the city spent to settle the case.
And before Young’s approved settlement, the city also paid a private firm more than $46,000 to litigate her case, said Celia Meza, the city’s Corporation Counsel in a Monday hearing.
“It’s not fair, for myself, someone who works in the city of Chicago and in the state of Illinois,” Young said. “…the money that I pay, those other families who pay their taxes, that money is also coming out of their pockets that’s going into a system that’s so unfair.”
The Emotional Cost
Nearly four years after CPD’s wrong raid on Peter Mendez’s home, Mendez, now 13, was deposed by an attorney for the city this year as part of his family’s lawsuit.
His deposition is just one of many reviewed by CBS 2 for this report. These videos offer a glimpse into not only how he and other children were treated during the raids, but also how they are asked to recount traumatizing moments during the litigation process.
In Mendez’s deposition, an attorney for the city asked him to watch the body camera video of the raid.
“It still hurts to watch,” he said during the deposition.
The video shows he was required to answer questions for 3 hours and 31 minutes.
“And you believe a gun was pointed at you?” the attorney asked.
“Yes,” Peter replied.
“You were laying on the floor face down though, right?” the attorney asked.
“Yes,” Peter said.
“Okay,” the attorney said.
“Well I was,” Peter continued. “But then…I could look up.”
Three years after the wrong raid on E’Monie Booth’s home, he too was deposed as part of his family’s lawsuit.
“They just had, like, their weapons. They aimed at us,” he told attorneys in his deposition, as he remembered how officers treated him and his younger siblings.
The depositions also demonstrate how attorneys for the city ask the children questions that are unrelated to the police raids.
“Does your father own a firearm?” the attorney asked Booth.
“No, he doesn’t,” the teen replied.
“I mean you absolutely no disrespect with this question. I just need to ask to cover this fact,” the attorney continued. “Have you ever been detained or arrested before?”
“No,” Booth said.
Young, a licensed social worker, said questions like these can add to the trauma and stress that the families continue to grapple with after negative experiences with police.
“So when you think about young children who are not fully developed mentally or emotionally, to be re-traumatized by watching a video of one of the probably most terrifying things they’ve experienced in their very young lives, is totally unfair.”
Davianna Simmons, the 3-year-old who suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder after a wrong raid on her home in 2013, was also on the other end of unrelated questions. In one part of her deposition, she was repeatedly asked about family members who were not connected to, or present for, the raid.
“How often do you see your dad?” an attorney for the city asked.
“Not often,” she said.
“Does he come to your birthday?” he asked.
“To ask a child about her father brings no value to the case, but it continues to cause systematic harm to the individual,” Young said.
Young said it’s a lengthy road to a potential civil resolution in these types of cases. She knows from her experience how the process can take an emotional toll on those who’ve already been traumatized.
“In the entire time of me fighting for this for myself, I’ve always mentioned that I wanted to fight for the other families as well,” Young said. “So, it’s so disheartening for me to hear that these children are being traumatized over and over again, as they continue through the process of seeking justice.”
The recent approval of a multi-million-dollar settlement to Young renewed questions about when the city would resolve the several similar lawsuits still on the books.
The Chicago Law Department did not provide a statement in response to this report. A spokesperson said the city cannot comment on pending litigation.
At a news conference Monday, CBS 2 asked Mayor Lori Lightfoot when the remaining cases would be concluded.
“I can’t speak to all of those, but I can assure you we take all these matters seriously and we will move them through the process as expeditiously as possible,” Lightfoot said.
“We certainly understand the pain that a lot of these families have endured,” she continued. “And we’re going to treat them individually, which is what you would expect if you were in one of those cases.”
In addition, COPA said in a statement it expects to wrap up its respective investigations into the Mendez and Booth cases in January of next year.
“In light of COPA’s recent high profile search warrant investigations and considerable public interest in search warrant procedures, COPA remains committed to conducting thorough investigations and continuing to make policy recommendations to the Chicago Police Department to further improve search warrant practices and training,” an agency spokesperson said.
After CBS 2 aired the video of the botched raid on Young’s home – and two years after CBS 2 first began reporting on CPD’s pattern of bad raids – Lightfoot and Police Supt. David Brown pushed through multiple search warrant reforms. Prior to their implementation, Young and her attorney argued those changes lacked teeth and instead support the proposed Anjanette Young Ordinance.
Young said she also believes her lawsuit, and the COPA investigation into the wrong raid on her home, were “fast tracked because of the political publicity.” She hopes other families who’ve been wrongly raided will soon see a civil resolution.
“I stand on their shoulders,” Young said. “And it’s so unfair, in the way that things have happened, I am getting more resolution…and it’s just not fair. But it’s also why each time I ever speak in any public forum, I’m mentioning those other families because they mean that much to me.”