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Pay $9.5 Million To Man Severely Injured By Police Stun Gun, Aldermen Say

By Heather Cherone | September 5, 2017 2:27pm
 A police-issued stun gun.
A police-issued stun gun.
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Wikimedia Commons/Junglecat

CITY HALL — The City of Chicago should pay $9.5 million to a man who was severely injured after he was shocked with a stun gun by a Chicago police officer, causing him to fall and hit his head, aldermen recommended Tuesday.

Jose Lopez was injured on July 22, 2011, after his friend called paramedics after Lopez began experiencing chest pains, according to court records.

Paramedics called police after they said Lopez was not having a heart attack but was under the influence of drugs and posed a threat to himself and others. The man tested positive for cocaine and PCP, according to the city's attorneys.

While police said Lopez swung at an officer, Lopez' attorneys said he was not combative before he was shocked, according to court records.

Lopez, who worked as a tow truck driver, is now a quadriplegic and requires around-the-clock care, according to the city's attorneys.

The full City Council is expected to approve the settlement Wednesday, the latest in a series of large payments approved by aldermen to compensate people injured by Chicago Police Department officers.

After a trial in February, a jury found that Officer Stevan Vidljinovic used excessive force on Lopez, but did not find Lopez' injuries were intentionally inflicted. Jurors found there was no evidence Lopez swung at police.

The city agreed to settle the case before the jury could award damages, court records show.

Ald. George Cardenas (12th) said it was difficult to approve such a large settlement when the city is struggling to pay its bills.

Ald. Nichloas Sposato (38th) — who frequently votes against settlements related to police misconduct — said the Council had "no choice" because of the verdict in this case.

Vidljinovic had been the subject of eight allegations of misconduct, according to the Citizens Police Data Project. One of those complaints — going back to March 2011 — alleging that the veteran officer used excessive force was sustained, records show.

In July, the city paid $500,000 to a woman who suffered a miscarriage after being shocked with a stun gun three times by a Chicago police officer.

Investigators with the U.S. Justice Department found that Chicago police officers routinely deployed stun guns "against people who posed no threat," according to a report released in January.

"Among the most egregious uses of deadly force we reviewed were incidents in which CPD officers shot at suspects who presented no immediate threat," according to the report.


In addition, officers are rarely — if ever — held accountable for stun gun use, according to the report.

Although the Police Review Authority has the power to investigate those incidents, in 2010 it "stopped investigating all but a few of the Taser uses — in particular, those accompanied by a citizen complaint," according to the report.

City officials "created a system in which no one assesses whether Tasers are being used appropriately or effectively," according to the report.

The federal investigation was prompted by the fatal shooting of Laquan McDonald. A dashcam video of his death sparked outrage and widespread protests.

One of the first things Mayor Rahm Emanuel did in response to that outcry was to order all officers to have access to a stun gun and be trained on how to use the weapon, which fires barbs attached by wires to batteries, causing temporary paralysis.

But officers were not properly trained to use the devices in the field, federal investigators found.

"CPD, however, quickly cycled large numbers of officers through poorly designed training," according to the report. "As a result, officers were not effectively taught how or when to use the Taser as a less-lethal force option."

The stun guns used by Chicago officers also can be used by holding them against their targets without firing the projectiles. That ability — which causes pain but does not incapacitate a subject — is frequently abused by officers and should be restricted by Police Department officials, according to the report.