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Jury Finds Cop Was Justified in Shooting, Killing Man on Thanksgiving 2010

By Erin Meyer | August 27, 2013 8:23am
 A jury returned a verdict Monday in favor of the city and a Chicago police officer who shot and killed 22-year-old Xavier Ferguson on Thanksgiving 2010.
A jury returned a verdict Monday in favor of the city and a Chicago police officer who shot and killed 22-year-old Xavier Ferguson on Thanksgiving 2010.
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DALEY CENTER — Jurors in the case of a West Side man shot and killed by police on Thanksgiving three years ago sided with the city Monday in a wrongful death lawsuit. 

Xavier Ferguson, 22, was shot and killed by police after a traffic stop early on Nov. 24, 2010.

Attorneys representing the cop who shot Ferguson, Officer Collis Underwood, argued that Ferguson tried to tackle Underwood and attempted to grab his gun.

But Ferguson's mother, Ella Ferguson, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the city and Underwood, claiming the shooting wasn't justified.

Jurors on Monday returned a verdict in favor of the city and Underwood, a spokesman for the city's Law Department said.

The verdict came after Ella Ferguson's attorney, Gregory Kulis, and attorneys for the city sparred Friday in a Daley Center courtroom during closing arguments in the case.

According to Underwood's account, he and three other officers were in the Grand Central District, traveling in a two-car caravan, attorneys said. The officers came upon Ferguson's van with several people inside in the 5200 block of West Kamerling Avenue.

The van started to pull away, and police said they saw someone throwing things out of the window.

When police pulled the van over, the people inside jumped out and started running. Some of them ran toward Underwood, who was already out of his car, gun in hand. 

"Xavier Ferguson tackled a police officer and tried to get his gun," city attorney Scott Jebson said. "If an offender gets an officer's gun, that officer is dead."

Calling the job of police officer the "most dangerous job in the world," Jebson said, "Every officer's biggest nightmare is being shot and killed."

But Ferguson's family and an eyewitness said Ferguson was trying to escape the officer and never posed a serious threat to Underwood. 

Underwood "made a conscious decision, aimed his gun and fired three times," Kulis told jurors on Friday. Ferguson "did not deserve to be shot and killed."

"You don't get to hear from Xavier Ferguson because Collis Underwood took his life," Kulis said.

A witness called by Kulis testified that Ferguson and his friends were drinking gin in the van when they saw the squad car behind them.

Ferguson, on parole for a drug conviction at the time, didn't want to go back to jail, so the idea he would attack a cop doesn't stand the test of logic, Kulis claimed.

But Jepson countered: "When you are desperate, you make a lot of [bad] decisions; when you are drinking and you are desperate, you make horrible decisions."

Kulis also argued that the gunshot wound Ferguson suffered in the lower right side of his body, "could not have happened" if he and Underwood were facing each other, as the officer said.

Before the jurors started deliberating Friday, attorneys suggested they award the Ferguson family more than $5.3 million in damages.

Law Department spokesman Roderick Drew said Monday that the city was pleased with the verdict.