City Council Reverses July Vote, Agrees to Pay $2M to Family of Man Killed by Chicago Police Officer in 2014

(WTTW News)(WTTW News)

Chicago taxpayers will pay $2 million to the family of a man who was shot and killed by a Chicago police officer after a foot chase in August 2014.

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The Chicago City Council voted 31-18 to resolve the lawsuit filed by the family of Darius Cole-Garrit, which claimed the officers who shot the 21-year-old threatened him hours before they nearly ran him over and then shot him in the back as he fled.

That vote represents a nearly unprecedented about-face by the Chicago City Council, and came five months after the same alderpeople voted 22-26 to reject the same settlement. 

Two officers fired 16 shots at Cole-Garrit at 9:30 p.m. on Aug. 19, 2014, after a brief foot chase near 133rd Street and Forrestville Avenue. Cole-Garrit was struck nine times, records show.

Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd Ward), the chair of the Finance Committee, said it was not clear the city would be able to convince a jury the officers did nothing wrong, which would likely mean Chicago taxpayers would pay much more than $2 million.

Filed in 2016, the lawsuit that asked a jury to award Cole-Garrit’s family $30 million withstood several attempts by city lawyers to dismiss it, according to court records. It then languished during the shutdown of the federal civil court system at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The proposed settlement included more than $800,000 in fees for the lawyers who represented Cole-Garrit’s family, court records show.

An Altgeld Gardens native, Cole-Garrit lived in Minnesota and was working in a factory at the time of his death, according to the lawsuit. He was shot and killed while visiting Chicago to attend a neighborhood picnic, the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit filed by Cole-Garrit’s family claims the officers who shot him threatened him hours before they nearly ran him over and then shot him in the back as he fled.

Cole-Garrit called his girlfriend after the initial confrontation with the officers on a basketball court at Golden Gate Park and told her he was scared of the officers, who he said told him, “we got your ass, we are going to get you,” according to the lawsuit.

The shooting was a targeted assassination, according to the lawsuit. 

Matthew Amarin, the lawyer for Cole-Garrit’s mother, as well as the mothers of his two children, called the vote “bittersweet.”

“Although [Cole-Garrit’s] children will be financially compensated for their loss by this settlement, they will never know their father,” Amarin said. “Furthermore, the officers involved will not be criminally charged, punished, or reprimanded in any way. The settlement helps these children but provides no incentive for rogue officers to change their behavior.”

Ald. Bill Conway (34th Ward), a former assistant state’s attorney who prosecuted officers for misconduct, led the push to reject the settlement in July. However, on Wednesday he acknowledged that the matter was a “close call.”

Conway again voted against the settlement, but said it was “OK” for his colleagues who did more homework to change their vote.

Cole-Garrit’s autopsy will show the gunshots he suffered to the front of his body entered at a “downward angle,” indicating that Cole-Garrit was falling while he was hit, Amarin has said.

The officers said when they approached Cole-Garrit in an unmarked SUV he turned toward them, pulled out a gun and pointed it at them from a “tactical stance,” before ditching his bicycle and fleeing.

Officers Matthew O’Brien and James Bansley chased Cole-Garrit on foot, records show. O’Brien told investigators he opened fire after Cole-Garrit turned and pointed his gun at Bansley.

However, Bansley told investigators that he did not see Cole-Garrit point a gun at him, and a third officer told investigators he believed Cole-Garrit pointed his gun at O’Brien.

O’Brien fired 11 shots, while Bansley fired five times, records show.

The shooting took place before officers were required to wear body-worn cameras, and before the Chicago Police Department had a policy that governed when officers were allowed to chase those suspected of committing a crime.

The shooting was reviewed by the Independent Police Review Authority, which was replaced by the Civilian Office of Police Accountability in 2017 and deemed justified.

O’Brien has faced 57 complaints in his 21-year career, according to a database compiled by the Invisible Institute. None were sustained, according to the database. He has also used force against Chicagoans 45 times in his career, is now a sergeant and earns $129,666 annually, according to the city’s salary database.

O’Brien has faced more complaints and used force more times than 99.4% of all Chicago police officers, according to the database compiled by the Invisible Institute.

Bansley has faced at least nine complaints in his 14-year career, according to the Invisible Institute database.

Contact Heather Cherone: @HeatherCherone | (773) 569-1863 | [email protected]

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