Suit alleges photographs of dying man used in false story that he was a rioter who deserved what he got
CICERO, IL – A retired Cicero Fire Department (CFD) Lieutenant and two CFD paramedics were sued in federal court today for their roles in photographing and slandering a man as he lay dying in their care.
As last year’s civil unrest following the police killing of George Floyd began, on June 1st Victor Cazares, Jr. did what many of his neighbors did. He walked a few doors down from his apartment to stand, unarmed, in front of a local business to prevent the neighborhood institution from being destroyed.
Tragically, someone shot Cazares in the head. He died later that evening.
When CFD paramedics Justin Zheng and Gene Lazcano arrived at the scene, “Mr. Cazares was breathing and had a pulse.” According to today’s suit, two minutes later, “in total disregard for the truth,” retired CFD Lieutenant Frank R. Rand posted a picture on a widely viewed Facebook group of the bloodied Mr. Cazares on a stretcher with the caption, “Come to Cicero to loot and break shit! Get a free body bag!! Nice head shot!!”
The suit states,
“Instead of taking Mr. Cazares immediately and directly to the hospital, Defendants Zheng and Lazcano, took or caused another to take, one or more photograph[s] of Mr. Cazares without his consent. The photograph shows Mr. Cazares on the ambulance stretcher, his head having been bandaged, and dying. The stretcher was covered in blood and the bandage roll on Mr. Cazares’ head was red and wet.”
As they prayed and grieved for their dying son and brother, the Cazares’ family received taunts and offensive comments from people incited by the false and immoral post about Mr. Cazares. Victor’s older sister, Michelle, who was stationed overseas in Italy in one of its most pandemic-infected regions, struggled to travel home to the family.
“When I finally landed on my third layover after a 10-hour flight all I could think about was what my little brother went through in his last moments alive and how I needed to get to my family as soon as possible. As I waited to exit the plane my heart dropped when I was scrolling through my Facebook messages and came across the traumatizing picture of my brother that Rand posted on Facebook with the disgusting message. I was still trying to process everything that had happened and seeing that post completely crushed me. That horrifying image will forever remain in my memory”.
“In a town long racked by racial divisions, the cruel, racial element in Rand’s piling on about the death of a Brown person following the police murder of a Black person cannot be underestimated,” said Mike Kanovitz of Loevy & Loevy Attorneys at Law, one of the Cazares family’s attorneys. “Victor’s family’s and friends’ grief was tremendously magnified by this invasion of privacy and the public humiliation that it inflicted.”
Victor M. Cazares Jr. was 27 years old and is survived by his parents and two sisters.
In addition to Mr. Kanovitz, the Cazares’ family is also represented by Cindy Tsai, also of Loevy & Loevy. Loevy & Loevy Attorneys at Law is one of the nation’s largest civil rights law firms and has won more multi-million-dollar jury verdicts than any other civil rights law firm in the country.
A copy of the suit, Adriana Cazares, on behalf of herself and as Administrator of the Estate of Victor M. Cazares Jr. and Michelle Cazares v. Frank R. Rand, Justin Zheng, Gene Lazcano, and Town of Cicero, Illinois, a municipal corporation, Case No. 1:21-cv-01022, can be found here.