Chicago Should Pay $1.75M to Family of Woman Who Died in Police Holding Cell, City Lawyers Recommend

(WTTW News)(WTTW News)

Chicago taxpayers should pay $1.75 million to the family of a 33-year-old woman who died by suicide inside a South Side police station, city lawyers recommended.

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Irene Chavez spent the night of Dec. 17, 2021, at the Jeffery Pub, a Black-owned South Shore bar known to welcome gay and lesbian Chicagoans.

Just before midnight, a security guard called police and told them Chavez punched him in the face after being told to stop trying to play music on a broken juke box, according to a report documenting Chavez’s arrest released by the Civilian Office of Police Accountability, known as COPA.

Another security guard handcuffed Chavez, who spit in his face while waiting for CPD officers to arrive, according to the report. Both security guards agreed to file misdemeanor charges against Chavez, according to the report.

The officers who arrested Chavez said she “smelled of a strong odor of an alcoholic beverage and admitted drinking alcohol stating she had approximately (3) drinks while at Jeffrey Pub,” according to a second incident report filed in the early morning hours of Dec. 18, 2021, and released by COPA, the agency charged with investigating police misconduct.

Chavez was taken to the Grand Crossing (3rd District) Police District, where she became belligerent while she was processed by officers, shouting “’I’m a veteran! I have PTSD!’ but did make any threats to harm herself,” according to the second incident report.

Officers removed Chavez’s belt and shoelaces before she was placed in a holding cell at 12:20 a.m. Dec. 18, 2021, with her left hand handcuffed to a bench, according to the second incident report.

While in the holding cell, Chavez shouted “It was self-defense!” and “I'm a veteran, I have PTSD! Talk to my therapist!” and threw coins at the window of the cell, according to the second incident report.

At 1:04 a.m., Chavez shouted “This isn’t funny!” and threw her boot at holding cell window, according to the second incident report.

Five minutes later, an officer checked on Chavez, who had stopped shouting. The officer found her with her black, button-down shirt wrapped around her neck, and called for medical help at 1:09 a.m., according to the second incident report. Efforts to resuscitate Chavez were unsuccessful, and she died later that day.

The proposed $1.75 million settlement is set to be considered Monday by the City Council’s Finance Committee. A final vote of the City Council could come on May 22.

COPA completed its investigation into the incident on April 28, 2023, but the results of that probe have not been made public, and no officers have been disciplined in connection with Chavez’s death.

Chavez’s family said she developed post-traumatic stress disorder and struggled with alcoholism after serving in the U.S. Army.

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

If you or someone you know is struggling with depression or suicidal ideation, you can call or text 988 to access the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline or find help online at

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