Then-17-year-old Sean Tyler and his brother Reginald Henderson survived torture by notorious Area 1 detectives associated with the late CPD Commander Jon Burge’s “Midnight Crew”
CHICAGO – This morning Chicago Police torture survivors Sean Tyler and Reginald Henderson, sued the City of Chicago and its police officers in federal court for torture and falsifying evidence, causing a quarter century of wrongful incarceration.
Tyler was targeted for this gross police misconduct because at age 15 he blew the whistle on police for wrongfully pinning a murder on 13-year-old Marcus Wiggins. Tyler, who witnessed the 1991 murder of Alfredo Hernandez, courageously chose to come forward and agreed to testify in Wiggins’ defense.
Wiggins alleged that police tortured him into falsely confessing to Hernandez’s murder by severely hitting the 13-year-old, electro-shocking his hands, threatening him and refusing to let him see a parent or guardian. Wiggins’ allegations of police torture made national headlines at the time.*
Fifteen-year-old Tyler was so afraid of police retaliation for his testimony that the judge in Wiggins’ case formally banned all CPD detectives involved in the Hernandez murder investigation from having any contact whatsoever with Tyler, and likewise banned any CPD detectives from contacting Tyler without prior approval from the court.
Rather than abide by the court’s order, though, the CPD officers named in today’s suit actively flouted it. When another man, Rodney Collins, was killed two years later, the officers exacted revenge on Tyler and by extension his brother to frame them for the murder. Over the course of 48 hours, the CPD Officers, along with prosecutors also sued in today’s lawsuit, coerced and fabricated a false confession from Reginald in which he was forced to implicate Sean.
After torturing Henderson, the detectives detained and physically struck the 17-year-old Tyler so severely in the chest, face, and eyes that he was later taken to the hospital for vomiting blood. Scared and afraid–having never been in trouble with the law before–Sean agreed to sign whatever the officers wanted. Based on their fabricated and false confessions, Henderson and Tyler were wrongly convicted of murder and sentenced to decades in prison in 1995.
The police officers named in today’s federal lawsuit have a long and checkered history of coercing young, Black men into falsely confessing. For example, former CPD Det. Boudreau alone forced false confessions from 16 men who have since had their convictions overturned. And a court recently held that CPD officers Halloran and Boudreau had a pattern of abusing suspects, which the State could not contest.
As evidence of systemic abuse by police proteges of notorious ex-Commander Burge piled up, on February 15, 2019, Tyler was released on parole. Henderson was released on parole April 16, 2020. On October 21, 2020, Illinois’ Torture Inquiry Commission said that the medical evidence as well as “the troubled history of the detectives accused of abuse merit a court examination of Tyler’s allegations.” Finally, on September 17, 2021, the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office dismissed the cases against both men.
“Let’s be clear: the torture committed by these Chicago Police detectives and the ‘midnight crew’ remains an open wound on our communities,” said Jon Loevy of Loevy & Loevy Attorneys at Law, one of Tyler’s attorneys. “This violent history is not over until each survivor is recognized, compensated, and steps are taken to ensure this never happens again.”
“Under no circumstances is it remotely legal or ethical for police officers to torture anyone. The fact that Chicago police officers did this to an innocent youth – who did the right thing by coming forward to testify about a murder – then railroaded him to high security prison for a quarter century just makes these officers’ crimes that much more outrageous.”
According to Henderson’s lawyer, Jennifer Bonjean, “The misconduct in Henderson’s case was not limited to CPD officers but extended to Cook County State’s Attorneys who not only turned a blind eye to grievous police misbehavior but doubled down on it.”
During their wrongful incarcerations, Tyler and Henderson lost nearly a dozen close relatives and were unable to attend their funerals. Arrested on the cusp of young adulthood, they missed the opportunity build families and careers. Today Tyler works with the Chicago Torture Justice Center and guest teaches in the Chicago Public Schools about youth rights and CPD’s documented history of police torture of Black and Brown people.
Henderson went to prison with an infant daughter and came home 26 years later as a grandfather. Although the loss he experienced is unquantifiable, he remains optimistic and committed to making a positive influence in his community and society at large. Henderson has written a book called Emancipate Thoughts; he is an inspirational speaker and works with various juvenile justice and prison reform initiatives.
Besides Jon Loevy, Sean Tyler is also represented by attorneys Heather Lewis Donnell, Gayle Horn and Elliot Slosar of the national civil rights law firm Loevy & Loevy Attorneys at Law. Loevy & Loevy is one of the nation’s largest civil rights law firms, and over the past decade has won more multi-million dollar jury verdicts than any other civil rights law firm in the country.
Henderson is represented by Jennifer Bonjean and Ashley Cohen of the Bonjean Law Group. The Bonjean Law Group specializes in exonerating the wrongfully convicted; in the past year alone, they have successfully reversed the murder convictions of 10 people.
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*The CPD’s lies about Wiggins eventually unraveled and Wiggins and all of his co-defendants were either acquitted or had the charges against them dropped.