An African-American woman says a Chicago State University police officer pulled his gun on her and her young daughter without provocation and threatened to “blast your ass” as they left a gospel music concert on the Far South Side campus earlier this year.
Karen Coruthers is suing the CSU Board of Trustees and an unknown officer in federal court, claiming she was put in “immediate, reasonable fear” that she would be “imminently shot” by a university officer who pointed his gun at Coruthers and her 9-year-old daughter.
“Without justification, privilege, and for no reason whatsoever, this officer pulled his gun and threatened to shoot Karen and her nine-year-old daughter while they were trying to exit the CSU parking lot,” Coruthers’ attorney states in a 15-page civil complaint, “placing Karen – an African American female – in immediate reasonable fear that she and her daughter would suffer an imminent battery by the officer shooting them.”
According to the complaint, the incident took place on May 17. Coruthers and her daughter had attended a gospel concert that evening held at the Jones Convocation Center on the CSU campus.
As they left in their vehicle, they approached a parking lot exit where the unknown officer was directing traffic. Coruthers claims she rolled down her window to ask if they could use that exit, but before she could say almost anything, the officer had allegedly drawn his weapon, pointed it at Coruthers’ vehicle and said, “Get your ass back in line or I will show you and blast your ass.”
Beyond pointing the gun at Coruthers, the complaint states her daughter was also in the officer’s line of fire.
The officer detained Coruthers, who filed a report with the CSU Police Department by the following day. The complaint describes the officer’s stance as something out of a “Wild West duel” and states Coruthers is still suffering emotional distress months later.
“As a result of this incident,” the complaint states, “Karen has suffered and continues to suffer severe and extreme emotional distress, has suffered bouts of uncontrollable crying, shaking, and sweating in the weeks that followed, has suffered both nightmares as well as sleepless nights, has post-traumatic stress symptoms, and has been and continues to suffer anxiety, anguish, outrage, embarrassment, and humiliation.”
According to the complaint, Coruthers believes she and her daughter were racially profiled. It states their fear of “imminent battery was especially elevated” after the officer drew his weapon and did so “for no reason other than Plaintiff was in a vehicle while Black.”
The lawsuit also names CSU’s former interim President Rachel Lindsey as a defendant. The university has since hired Zaldwaynaka “Z” Scott to serve as its full-time president.
A university spokeswoman declined comment Monday afternoon, saying they had not yet received a copy of the lawsuit.
The CSU Police website states the department employs sworn police officers, security officers and police emergency 911 dispatchers. It is staffed around the clock, seven days a week.
“The department will maintain the highest standards of integrity and ethics, excellence in the performance of duty,” the police department says on its website, “and maintenance of private lives that inspire respect and admiration and provide examples for the entire community.”
Coruthers is seeking compensatory damages in excess of $100,000.
Clarification: The civil complaints identifies defendant Joanne Nee as the interim CSU police chief. The university, however, says she is not an employee of CSU.