Two Chicago women say they were set up and falsely arrested by multiple police officers, including two who were convicted in federal court last year for using false information to obtain “bogus” warrants and steal thousands of dollars’ worth of cash and drugs from properties they searched.
Micaela Cruz alleges in a federal lawsuit last week that members of the Chicago Police Department, including Sgt. Xavier Elizondo and Officer David Salgado, fabricated evidence in order to unlawfully search her Chicago home and arrest her for narcotics violations that were later dismissed.
“Ms. Cruz suffered pain, suffering, mental anguish, anxiety, fear, humiliation, embarrassment, despair, rage, and other effects as a result of Defendants’ misconduct,” Cruz’s attorneys wrote in a 30-page complaint filed Jan. 13. “(Her children) were in fear for their lives and continue to suffer untold damage and ill-effects from the 2018 Defendant Officers’ decision to terrorize the kids while falsely arresting their mom.”
The lawsuit names the city of Chicago, as well as Elizondo, Salgado and 10 other Chicago police officers as defendants.
A similar lawsuit filed Wednesday claims a second woman, Irene Simmons, was also a victim of these “bogus” warrants in October 2017.
Elizondo and Salgado, who worked on a CPD gang unit on the West Side, were both arrested and charged in May 2018 in a federal corruption case. They were accused of using informants to lie to judges in order to fraudulently obtain “John Doe” warrants, which they’d use to search properties and steal cash and drugs.
“We certainly know that to the extent any of these informants gave accurate information, they certainly didn’t do it when it was Micaela Cruz and Irene Simmons, because the drugs that Elizondo and Salgado and the rest of their team claimed were found in police reports in their (homes) were absolutely not found,” Joshua Tepfer, a partner with Loevy & Loevy, the firm that filed both lawsuits, said during a press conference Wednesday.
In January 2018, Cruz claims Elizondo, Salgado and other officers followed that similar pattern – fabricating evidence in order to obtain a search warrant – before raiding her home while she was out.
The lawsuit accuses the officers of “terrorizing” Cruz’s children, who were held at gunpoint during the encounter, and falsely claiming to have recovered drugs that were never actually seized from her home.
“As he opened his eyes, (Cruz’s 16-year-old son Dontay) saw several of the 2018 Defendant Officers, in masks, about an arms-length away from him pointing guns toward his head,” the complaint states. “The Defendant Officers did not identify themselves as police officers, and Mr. Cruz did not immediately understand that the Defendant Officers were police officers.”
The complaint states the officers threatened to arrest her son, stole $800 and falsely indicated they found heroin in Cruz’s bedroom. Cruz was arrested and faced criminal charges, but those were tossed out in March 2018.
A year later, in January 2019 – months after Elizondo and Salgado were arrested – Cruz said her home was raided by police for a second time.
The officers allegedly wore masks and held Cruz and her boyfriend at gunpoint as they ransacked her home. They also “conspired to create false and fabricated police reports,” according to the complaint, which once again led to Cruz being detained and charged. Those charges were dismissed days later.
According to the complaint, Cruz believes her second arrest came as “retaliation for Ms. Cruz’s efforts to expose Defendants Salgado and Elizondo’s misdeeds.”
Cruz on Wednesday said she and her children continue to be traumatized their experiences.
“They cannot hear a knock on the door without being scared,” she said. “It actually is terrorizing. I get like nervous, like sort of like panic attacks, when I see the police or like if the blue lights come up behind me.”
Simmons’ case echoes many of the allegations made by Cruz. She claims officers broke down her front door in October 2017 as she sat at home with her 3-year-old granddaughter. Simmons was handcuffed as officers ransacked her apartment, the complaint states, and eventually arrested after they claimed to have found illegal narcotics and paraphernalia. That led to criminal charges that were dismissed the following June.
A spokesman from the city on Wednesday said they had not yet received a copy of Simmons’ lawsuit and could not comment on the case. A spokesman from the city’s Law Department last week could not comment on Cruz’s lawsuit.
A federal jury in October found Elizondo and Salgado guilty of multiple charges including conspiracy to commit theft, deprivation of civil rights, embezzlement and obstruction of justice. Salgado was also convicted of making a false statement to the FBI.
Both men face the possibility of multiple decades in prison when they are sentenced next month.
Including the Cruz and Simmons cases, Tepfer claims the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office has dismissed 37 pending cases tied to these two officers, and believes there could be more who were convicted based on false information.
“It’s horrible that they were able to get away with it for so long, but it’s great that now that a lot of people are standing up,” Cruz said. “It’s something that’s being spoken about now rather than just pushed to the side or shoved under the table.”
Note: This story was first published Jan. 14, 2020. It has been updated to include allegations made by Irene Simmons in a lawsuit filed Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2020.